Hooray! Summer is finally arrived in the Midwest. And with it, the uptick in outdoor activities and sports programs for youth. Some of the advice we like to offer for injury prevention in young athletes is pretty common sense, but worthy of a reminder.
- Sleep. Yes, I always say this because without great sleep we are all prone to injury and to illness. Sleep for children (and everyone) should start when the sun goes down: as in start preparing for sleep when it gets dark. The word “midnight” is not accidental. 12 AM is the middle of the night, so go to bed well before then. Children need 9-10 hours of sleep.
- Hydrate. Hydration refers to water: not sugary sports drinks, or juice, or soda, or anything but water. Drink 8-10 glasses of pure filtered water daily. Drink water before, during and after sports. Most children (people) do not need any additional calories from beverages, nor do they need additional electrolytes. Salting your food with sea salt (not iodized salt) should provide plenty of salt. For athletes who are playing a sport for many hours in the sun (football players in gear especially), then we recommend supplements on an individual basis only.
- Eat well. Oh, yes, this can be super confusing for people, but it does not have to be. RULE: IF you can’t kill it, rip it from the ground, or pluck it from a tree—DO NOT EAT IT! Cook your own food. Eat fruit, vegetables, and meat. How can you go wrong? If you are eating packaged food, stop it. If you are eating fast food, stop it. There is no way to build healthy people with crappy building blocks. Is your child ADHD, mood disordered, experiencing skin eruptions, injured or ill frequently? Tighten up sleep, hydration and nutrition. You can cure almost anything with healthy living.
- Play multiple sports. We live in a society that encourages children as young as 6 (and certainly by 10) to specialize not only in one sport, but in one position. We know a lot about repetitive use injuries and still this is the paradigm. Encourage your children to play more than one sport, and certainly to play more than one position. It is important for athletes to change the sports or activities they are doing so they are not continuously putting stress on the same muscles and joints. The human body is designed to move in many planes and in different ways.
- Engage in a strength program. Children who learn to lift weights properly (emphasis on PROPERLY) tend to be injured much less frequently and recover faster than children who do not. Strength and conditioning is an all year activity. Youth athletes should be in a quality program where strength training is designed specifically and individually for each athlete. Proper development of athletes requires training where each athlete is assessed and tested and can see and feel their own progress.
- Be sure that young athletes have the proper equipment for the sport. Protective equipment like helmets, pads, and shoes are very important for injury prevention. Understand the equipment needs prior to the season to have adequate time to properly outfit each athlete before practices begin.
- When should my young athlete see a doctor for a sports-related injury?
- Consistent pain during or after sports
- Persistent or new swelling around a joint
- Recurrent instability – joints “give way”
- Painful pops (non-painful pops are OK)
- Pain that does not respond to a period of rest
Injury prevention in young athletes is best attained by clear communication between parents, athletes, and coaches. Working together we can create the strongest healthiest, and happiest athletes! Get out there and enjoy this glorious summer! If you have any questions about injury prevention in young athlete, please contact us.