There is nothing more disheartening to an athlete than a season-ending (or worse, career ending) injury. The athlete could face weeks of doctor’s visits, physical therapy, medications, and possibly, surgery. The best scenario, of course, is to prevent the injury in the first place. The good news is that many injuries can be avoided or minimized with the right preparation.
If your athlete isn’t doing these four things they should be!
1. Be well-hydrated
Water not only regulates body temperature, but it also lubricates the joints, transports nutrients and oxygen to cells, and restores fluids lost when athletes sweat. Poor hydration contributes to fatigue, cramps, cartilage wear and friction in the joints. We recommend a bottle of water (17-20 oz) before 45-60 minutes before training/games, drink water at least every 20 minutes during training/games, and another bottle after.
2. Eat healthy foods, especially when preparing for practices and games.
When an athlete doesn’t consume enough calories, or the wrong kind of calories (empty calories), the body and the mind suffers. When an athlete skips meals or eats the wrong foods, the body has no option other than to use muscle for its source of fuel, ultimately interfering with tissue repair and increasing the risk of injury. Remember, kids are still growing, so it’s essential that they eat healthy fats, lean protein, and complex carbohydrates including a variety of vegetables. Encourage them to avoid the junk foods, or a least limit the indulgence to once a week. Remember, as parents, you set the example, so it’s best to plan healthy meals ahead of time and avoid the drive-thru stops after practices or games.
3. Get enough rest.
It isn’t easy, especially for teens. Their internal clocks are often out of sync with what we consider a reasonable bedtime. But lack of rest/sleep impacts alertness on the field as well as in the classroom. It also impacts their workout or game intensity, reflexes, decision-making, and recovery. Common injuries that professionals cite as related to lack of sleep: ligament injuries, ACL tears, and meniscus tears. A recent study showed that “When compared to adolescents who averaged at least eight hours of sleep per night, those who averaged below eight hours of sleep per night had more injuries (1.7 times more likely). Additionally, the older the young athlete, the greater the chance of injury (1.4 times more likely for each grade level).1” Encourage your athlete to get off TV, computer games and phones two hours before bedtime so they can wind down. A great option is for them is to settle into bed with a good old-fashioned, non-electronic book.
4. Strengthen the body to help the body recover.
Sports practices and games put a great demand on the body and can lead to injuries from muscle imbalances, overuse, tears, and fractures. A proven countermeasure to that stress is to make the body stronger through strength training. Strength training improves the strength of the muscles, tendons, and bone. Ligaments become more flexible and better able to absorb shock.
One of the most common (and frankly, most avoidable) ways an athlete is injured is when a muscle weakness in a specific area is suddenly engaged – like during an abrupt stop or quick turn. Strength training helps eliminate those weak areas and balance the body for the activities it is called on to do when it needs it the most.
Parents, be sure to share these tips with your athlete. Consider bringing them into Next Level for an Athlete Performance Assessment. It includes an FMS test that screens for risk of injury and identifies weaknesses or imbalances. We’ll also recommend a training program that works with their level and time availability. Click here to schedule an Athlete Performance Assessment.
1. Centeno, C. (2017, August 15). Sleep-Deprived Young Athletes May Be More Prone to Sports Injuries. Retrieved from https://www.regenexx.com/sports-injuries-in-young-athletes/