7 Precautions That Prevent Injuries for Young Athletes
In the middle of the sports season, many young athletes start getting serious. They pay more attention to the win-loss record. They also begin thinking about how to improve their personal stats while there’s still time.
As the season gets closer to playoffs, competition ratchets up. Buckling down and putting in maximum effort is something coaches like to see, but it’s easy for student-athletes to push themselves a little too hard in an effort to end the season on a high note. That’s when injuries are more likely.
The last thing anyone wants is for a young athlete to be sidelined by an injury. Unfortunately, students have a greater risk of injury compared to adults simply due to the fact they’re still growing and developing.
The good news is many injuries can be prevented by taking a few precautions.
Put Emphasis on Proper Hydration and Nutrition
Physical conditioning starts with what you consume. We’ve discussed the importance of proper hydration and nutrition for young athletes in terms of performance. When a young athlete isn’t properly hydrated and fueled up performance declines, but the risk of injury also increases.
Not being hydrated in and of itself can cause physical harm due to heat-related illness. The side effects are equally dangerous because lack of hydration and nutrition can cause fatigue, decreased alertness and slower reaction time.
Make Time for R&R
Everyone, especially growing student-athletes, needs downtime for recovery. Periods of inactivity are when muscles and joints repair themselves. Sleep also helps athletes avoid fatigue. Giving yourself enough time (at least one day a week) for rest and recovery to reduce the risk of overuse injuries. Athletes also need to take breaks during practice, training and games to avoid heat-related illness.
Never Play Through Pain
There’s a certain mindset that athletes should toughen up and play through pain. This is never sound advice and should not be encouraged. Pain is an indicator of injury. Continuing to play could make the injury worse and cause more damage. The athlete may just need a little time to rest and recover or they may need to go see a doctor to assess the injury if the problem persists.
Fix Improper Techniques
An improper technique often leads to injury in athletes across a wide spectrum of sports. When an improper technique is used it puts more strain on the body and/or isn’t the safest method. Either way, it increases the chance of an injury. Coaches and sports trainers should be able to identify whether a young athlete is using improper technique and direct the athlete on how to fix it.
Wear the Right Gear
One of the easiest ways to prevent injuries is to wear the right gear while training and competing. Sports gear falls into one of two categories:
- Performance – Example: cleats. Regular tennis shoes will slip and slide as an athlete runs around the bases of a baseball or softball field, increasing the risk of a fall, twisted ankle or knee injury.
- Safety – Example: batting helmet. Getting hit in the head by a wild pitch is uncomfortable for a moment when a helmet is worn, but without one it could cause serious injury.
In addition to wearing the right gear, athletes need to wear the right size. Wearing the wrong size can be just as harmful as not wearing gear at all.
Cross Train to Prevent Strain
It’s a good idea for athletes to follow a conditioning program that’s designed to prepare them for a specific sport. However, it’s just as important to cross train. Cross training refers to physical activity that’s different from the regular routine associated with a specific sport. By mixing up the activity there’s less risk of overusing or straining a muscle group.
At Optimal Sports Performance, we offer sport-specific student athlete training programs as well as general conditioning programs. Our trainers pay careful attention to each athlete’s condition and technique to improve physical health while reducing the risk of injury.
Call us today to learn more about our programs and classes!