August marks the end of the summer and the return of the fall sports season. As athletes have started to prepare for their season with preseason practices and training camps, injuries begin to plague the teams. Our goal at The Training Room Physical Therapy and Performance is for athletes to enjoy and excel in healthy sports participation. One of the most important ways to promote this is to reduce the number of children being sidelined from sports-related injuries. We do this through education of athletes, coaches, parents and all those involved in youth athletics. Most organized sports-related injuries (62%) occur during practice rather than in games. The most common types of sports-related injuries among children are sprains, muscle strains, bone or growth plate injuries, and repetitive motion injuries. Below are a few tips that can help keep these injuries at bay.
- Warm up properly prior to participating in practice, training and competition. A proper warm up should consist of 5 to 10 minutes of slow activity such as jogging or skipping. In addition, low-intensity sport-specific actions such as dribbling a soccer ball can be productive at this time. This provides a very general warm-up that aids in skill development and raises body temperature. The aim of this period is to increase heart rate, blood flow, deep muscle temperature, respiration rate, and perspiration and to decrease viscosity of joint fluids. The second part to the warm up incorporates movements similar to the movements of the athlete’s sport. It involves short period of dynamic stretching focusing on movements that work through the range of motion required for the sport, such as the walking knee lift. This is followed by sport-specific movements of increasing intensity such as sprint drills, bounding activities, or jumping. The more power necessary for the sport or activity, the more important the warm-up becomes. This phase should also include rehearsal of the skill to be performed. The warm-up should progress gradually and provide sufficient intensity to increase muscle and core temperatures without causing fatigue or reducing energy stores.
- Make rest a priority. Kids should have at least one or two days off from any particular sport each week. During that time off, absolute rest is not necessary. Dynamic stretching appears to be the best recovery mode to enhance performance and cardio-respiratory and lactate responses. Using self massage tools such as the foam roller or stick massagers will help in soft tissue mobility. In addition, proper nutrition and hydration should be maximized. One of the most important factors in recovery for youth athlete is sleep. A good night’s sleep for 8-10 hours for kids will assist in adaptation to the physical, neurological, immunological and emotional stresses of competition.
- Listen to your body. There is a fine line between soreness from exertion and pain from injury, and athletes cross that line all the time. Paying close attention to your body and communicating when pain is present will help keep an athlete off the sidelines. Our philosophy in physical therapy is always to take care of the injury immediately and completely in order to prevent further progression of the condition and reduce areas of compensation. It is much better to miss a few days taking care of a small injury versus letting that small injury linger and turn into a significant injury that can cost the entire season.
Hopefully you will find these tips useful and they will help keep kids in the game. Whether you are an athlete, coach or parent you can play an important role in ensuring youth athletes experience success in sports. Good luck to all those participating this fall sports season!