The start of school can be an exciting beginning for student athletes. Young athletes often begin practice and even competitions or games before the first day of scheduled classes. Between daily studies and the added responsibility of their team, student athletes have a lot to maintain. Keeping these tips in mind can help to keep student athletes healthy throughout the season.
First things first.
Before students walk out for their first practice they should meet with a medical provider for a physical examination. The physical ensures that an athlete’s body is in the proper condition to take on the increased demands from practice and competitions.
Keep nutrition as a priority.
People say we are what we eat. Athletes especially need to pay attention to how they fuel their bodies for daily practice and long weekend competitions. This means the majority of their intake should be foods that are nutrient-dense such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
Students may want to increase their carbohydrate intake, which is a main source of energy. Protein is also critical for active athletes, as it helps our body grow and repair muscles. Lastly, you can’t forget about hydrating. Water makes up more than half of our bodies and is critical to sustaining almost all functions of the body. (For more on hydration, see the next tip.)
Even though we call it the fall season, temperatures can (and often do) still soar during the first few weeks of the season. Athletes are especially at risk of heat illness or dehydration during these hot days.
Hydration is essential for safely playing or practicing in the heat. Even if you aren’t feeling overly thirsty, be sure to consistently hydrate. Try to drink plenty of water the evening before and the day of any scorching conditions, and after you’ve completed the game or practice. Losing too much water without replenishing can lead to potentially dangerous conditions, so be sure you can recognize the signs of dehydration.
Practice being a well-rounded athlete.
In recent years, an increased number of middle school and high school student athletes are seeking medical help for overuse injuries. CHMC orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine doctor Matthew Prince explains that this trend of injuries in younger patients is likely due to students over-specializing in one sport. He urges students to practice becoming a more diverse athlete, focusing on working multiple muscle groups rather than overusing just one specific set.
This often means cross training, or refraining from practicing only one sport yearlong. Varying the exercises and avoiding repetitive motions can help decrease the risk of overuse injuries.
Treating minor injuries with R.I.C.E.
For minor muscle or ligament injuries, practice the R.I.C.E method. R.I.C.E. stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen, are also helpful in reducing inflammation in minor injuries. If athletes are not able to return to play without pain in 1-2 days, consult with your physician for further treatment.
Participating in school sports is a rewarding pastime for many students and can lead to a lifelong appreciation for exercise and an active lifestyle. Though sometimes injuries are unavoidable, remaining focused on healthy training habits is important at any age.
If you or your athlete is seriously injured or has a possible concussion or concussion-like symptoms, seek medical attention.
If you are interested in meeting with a sports medicine physician at Crittenton Hospital, contact us.