Insight Orthopedics & Sports Medicine – Summer vacation is winding down, which means it is time to start preparing for a new school year and the return of sports activities. From staying healthy and developing stronger peer relationships to building personal confidence and improving academic performance, there are countless benefits student athletes can look forward to while playing sports. However, all sports also have a potential for injury and should be taken seriously at any age. Whether your child has been playing sports since they could walk or they are trying something new this year, being proactive is the best way to prevent injuries and ensure your student athlete has a successful school year on and off the field. Here are eight back-to-school tips for preventing sports injuries.
Get a Sports Physical
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, more than 3.5 million children and teens in the United States experience a sports injury each year. One of the best ways to help your student athlete prevent an injury is to schedule a sports physical with a sports medicine specialist. A sports physical can help identify and treat health problems that could interfere with sports performance, such as asthma or heart issues. Sports medicine specialists will also be able to answer questions and provide recommendations to prevent injuries common in your child’s sport.
Get Enough Rest
In order for your student athlete to stay healthy and perform at their best all season, it is important that their mind and body have enough time to recover. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 8 to 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night for teens and 9 to 12 hours for children. Getting enough sleep will help your student athlete maintain a strong body, improve their metabolism, and experience overall good health.
It’s not always easy to resist the temptation of junk food. But it is essential that student-athletes are mindful of what they eat and take it seriously. Food is the body’s fuel and plays a key role in everything from performance to recovering from injuries. Athletes have different nutritional needs than their less-active peers, so it’s always a good idea to consult with a sports medicine specialist to ensure your student-athlete is making the right choices for their body and athletic activities.
In addition to making healthy food choices, it is also important for student-athletes to prioritize staying hydrated. During physical activity, the body gradually loses water and nutrients. This leads to dehydration, heat-related illnesses, muscle injuries, and other potentially dangerous complications. According to Michigan State University, children and teens should consume between 1.5 and 2 cups of water for every 15 to 20 minutes of physical activity. Water should also be consumed before and after physical activity.
Don’t Play Through Injuries
Whether it’s during practice or at a game, it is important to understand common injuries that are possible for your child’s sport and to avoid playing through injuries if they occur. Younger children are most likely to experience minor injuries like bruises and scrapes. However, injuries tend to be more serious in older student-athletes. For example, basketball, football, and soccer players often experience ankle and knee injuries. Elbow and shoulder injuries are more prevalent in baseball players and swimmers. It is also important to be mindful of concussions and know what to do if a head injury occurs.
Remember to Warm Up
It can be tempting, especially for younger athletes, to skip warm up exercises and start playing right away. But giving the body a chance to ease into physical activity is one of the best ways to prevent injuries and improve performance. Simple stretches and light aerobic exercise like walking or jogging offers many benefits, including increased blood flow, better flexibility and range of motion, and fewer aches and pains.
Use the Right Gear
Participating in sports without the proper gear can be very dangerous and lead to serious injuries. Whether it’s footwear or protective equipment like helmets and padding, your student athlete should always choose the right gear for their sport, making sure it fits properly and is comfortable. It is also important to inspect gear for damage before each use and replace worn gear to ensure your child is fully protected.
Participating in school sports comes with many benefits, including physical activity, self-confidence, and opportunities to gain leadership and social skills. However, student athletes also face a greater risk of experiencing injuries – especially when precautions like maintaining a healthy diet, using the right gear, and warming up before physical activity are overlooked. If your student-athlete has experienced an injury contact Insight Orthopedics and Sports Medicine today to schedule an appointment.
Q: Can sports medicine physicians help with complications from a previous injury.
A: Yes. Sports medicine physicians can help athletes still experiencing complications such as pain or stiffness from previous injuries.
Q: What is the best age for children to start playing sports?
A: To decrease risk of injury, it is recommended that children should not play contact sports such as football until they are at least 10. Most other competitive sports can be played by age eight. For children under eight, sports should focus on physical activity, having fun, and learning about rules and sportsmanship.
Q: How can parents support their child in school sports?
A: There are many ways parents can support their children in school sports. From volunteering, being a positive role model, and providing helpful feedback to simply showing up at games can help your child have a positive experience.