With student athletes participating in a variety of sports year-round and working tirelessly to earn scholarships, Marina High School decided to join the crusade to promote athletic safety.

April is National Youth Safety Month, so head athletic trainer Amanda Armendariz thought it a good time to host the athletic department's first sports safety event aimed at educating parents and students on how to avoid injuries and stay fit.

Marina collaborated April 24 with physical therapists from Change Sports Physical Therapy Institute in Huntington Beach to explain the benefits of proper nutrition and the risks of overuse.

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Matt Swift, a physical therapist with Change Sports, specializes in the prevention and rehabilitation of injuries caused by repetitive movement by youth athletes.

He said he has seen the number of his patients increase, largely because athletes compete year-round in multiple sports and simultaneously on different club and school teams.

"Kids now are training at levels that may be what college kids were training at 20 years ago," Swift said. "High school kids are trying to get that scholarship, so they just do more and more."

While overuse of a particular muscle group or joint will inevitably cause wear, poor technique can also contribute to injuries, Swift said.

For example, repetitive motion tends to inure the elbows and shoulders of baseball pitchers, but improper windups and pitches also contribute to injury.

"If they're not being as efficient with the way that they're throwing, then their shoulder or elbow will start to get worn out because of the stress being placed on it," he said.

To head off problems, Change Sports performs injury-prediction screenings to identify areas of an athlete's body that are at risk for overuse injuries.

Parents Jeff and Eva Blanco have paid close attention to their daughter, Marina softball pitcher Tera Blanco, and her health during her career.

After Tera suffered a herniated disc during her freshman year, the Blancos have worked hard with her to make sure she doesn't reinjure the area. She plans to play for the University of Michigan in the fall.

"Stretching is important, and she tries to do a lot of yoga," dad Jeff Blanco said. "She also does a lot of medicine ball exercises for her core. She's got a lot on the line, so we make sure that we try to stay as educated as possible."

Jeff Blanco, an assistant coach for Marina's softball team, said watching out for his daughter while encouraging her athletic pursuits is a balancing act.

"I've got to keep a good interest here to make sure that my daughter is doing the things that she needs to do to be strong, but also that she's healthy," he said. "You can be as strong as you want, but if you're pulling muscles, and you're not healthy and you can't play, what good is it?"