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Sports Injury Prevention

Every afternoon I cover athletic programs for a local high school with the main purpose being injury prevention. Coaches, athletes and especially parents benefit from having access to information that can keep their kids healthy, safe and on the field having fun. Unfortunately for young athletes, injuries are bound to happen, at least that’s what the statistics tell us. For the sake of trying to curve the statistics and keep kids playing the sports they love, let’s go over some tips for preventing injuries before they happen.

Nutrition is a huge factor in preventing injures. Food is the fuel your body runs on so when an athlete trains or competes, it is important they have the adequate nutrition they need to replenish their body. If a portion of the diet is lacking and the body needs to pull from stored substances, the athlete could be more susceptible to certain injuries. A balanced diet with natural carbs, proteins, and fats (no trans-fats) goes a long way. Adding in a daily multivitamin or mineral supplement can help ensure the essential nutrients for an active lifestyle are available. Finally, stay hydrated! A one-to-one ratio of water to sports drinks (Gatorade) is good for high level and long duration sports. For less intense activities drinking water is just fine. Having a balanced diet can help prevent stress fractures, heat illness and many other prevalent injuries.

It’s awesome that there are so many ways for kids to play the sports they love these days. Kids can play for high school teams or summer leagues or even travel teams, and because of these, many sports are no longer seasonal. What that means is there is no off-season for rest, only a continuous cycle from one team to the next. A lot of you probably just read that last sentence and thought, “wow, that’s a lot” and you’re right. According to the American Journal of Sports Medicine, specializing in one sport without any significant rest can lead to increased rates of over-use types of injuries (think ligament sprains and tendonitis). The best thing to do is to not specialize. Different sports focus on different skills and parts of the body, this gives the body an opportunity to rest and recuperate from the stresses of the previous sport. If that doesn’t convince you, here is a bonus incentive for avoiding sport specialization: most professional athletes, in any league, played multiple sports in high school and many report that playing multiple sports helped them perform better in their primary sport (think Bo Jackson, Michael Jordan, Deion Sanders, and many more).

Finally, sleep plays a huge role in both physical and mental health. Individuals operating on 2 hours of sleep less than their regular amount showed slowed response times like that of individuals just over the legal threshold for intoxication. If we equate this to sports such as soccer or softball, one can see how decreased reaction time increases the likelihood of injury. As well, adolescents tend to require more sleep than the average adult, who sleeps 6 to 8 hours a night. If a teenager is getting 8 to 9 hours of sleep a night they are doing pretty good. A tip for the best sleeping conditions are to have an environment that is cool, dark, and comfortable. Remember caffeine is a stimulant, so try to stay away from soda, coffee, and tea after about 3 pm or there may be some trouble falling asleep.

These tips certainly won’t prevent all injuries from occurring, but they are a good place to start. If you know someone who could benefit from reading this post, please pass it along!

Sports Injury Prevention

Kevin Thomas, ATC, SCAT

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