Every September, young athletes hit the playing fields -- too often they are at risk of getting injured. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons report that 3.5 million children under the age of 15 suffer sports injuries each year.

To avoid such injuries, youngsters need to be in good physical shape and get proper training for the sport. Key to sports safety is a period of exercises and stretches to properly warm up before staring to play.

This program, developed by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, is recommended for all children before any sporting event. The exercises should be done carefully. Speed is not important. Before doing these exercises, children should begin by running in place or walking for a few minutes.

CROSSOVER

Stand with legs crossed; keep feet close together and legs straight. Touch toes. Hold for five seconds. Repeat three to six times. Repeat with opposite leg in front.

SEAT STRADDLE LOTUS

Sit down; place soles of feet together and drop knees toward floor. Place forearms on inside of knees and push knees to the ground. Lean foward, bringing chin to feet. Hold for five seconds. Repeat three to six times.

FORWARD LUNGE

Lunge forward with your left leg bent and right leg straight. Keep back straight and both feet firmly planted on the ground. Stretch should be felt on the left groin. Hold for five seconds. Repeat three to six times. Repeat with opposite leg forward.

SEAT STRETCH

Sit with legs together, feet flexed, hands on ankles. Bring chin to knees. Hold for five seconds. Repeat three to six times.

LYING QUAD STRETCH

Lie on back with one leg straight, the other leg with hip turned in and knee bent. Press knee to floor. Hold for five seconds. Repeat three to six times. Switch legs and repeat.

STANDING QUAD STRETCH

Stand supported. Pull foot to buttocks. Hold for five seconds. Repeat three to six times. Repeat with opposite leg.

SIDE LUNGE

Stand with legs apart; bend the left knee while leaning toward the left. Keep the back and right leg straight. Hold for five seconds. Repeat three to six times. Repeat with opposite leg.

KNEES TO CHEST

Lie on back with knees bent. Grasp tops of knees and bring them out toward the armpits, rocking gently. Hold for five seconds. Repeat three to five times.

SEAT SIDE STRADDLE

Sit with legs spread; place both hands on the same ankle. Bring chin to knee, keeping the leg straight. Hold for five seconds. Repeat three to six times. Repeat with opposite leg.