by David Merson, DPT, ATC
The Fall sports and recreation season is upon us, always accompanied by anticipation, excitement, and sometimes anxiety for young athletes and parents alike. Here are some helpful tips for athletes of all ages to ensure a healthy and successful sports season.
If you’re an athlete…
You may have spent the summer relaxing, and are more than ready to jump into to your favorite sport, be it soccer, football, or any other social sports league. Before you do, consider the following:
Proper equipment: It’s time to dust off your sports equipment and make sure it still fits properly, works as it was designed to, and there are no broken parts. For instance, soccer shin pads should not be cracked, should cover the length of the shin from the ankle to just below the small bump at the knee (tibial tuberosity), and be fully adhered to the shin area using pre-wrap, straps, or other tape.
Activity Increases: Ideally, you should NOT start you pre-season with maximum game activity. You will need to ramp up your activity level slowly through practice and training. If your sports team has a pre-season, you need to maintain a basic level of fitness, strength, and endurance prior to going into official pre-season activity. Pre-season typically involves multiple sessions per day at a high intensity – therefore, summer workout programs are essential in keeping athletic performance high while reducing the risk of injury. If you are a social, recreational, or weekend-based athlete, please take some time in the coming weeks to stretch well and ramp up your level of cardio endurance before you take the field with your friends.
Proper Warm-up: Be sure to start all athletic participation with a proper warm-up. It will allow for increased heart rate and flexibility, and is ideal for the prevention of injuries. Be a team leader and create a fun, dynamic warm-up for your team (check online or on Youtube for great warm-up ideas from other teams). In my experience, not many athletes are diligent about this part, but it is essential to a successful season I would like to see this change in the coming years.
If you’re a parent…
I know every parent wants their young athlete to have a fun and successful sports, but also worries injury prevention and safety. Here are some tips to get your future Olympian off to a great start:
Pre-Participation Exam/Yearly Physical: Even if it is not required, having a physical that checks on the body’s cardiovascular system, nervous system, and orthopedic system is very important. This will allow a physician to catch any significant abnormalities in the growing body that should be treated and subsequently clear the athlete for an appropriate level of activity.
Athletic Trainer: Athletic Trainers are a pivotal component of the sports medicine team. Many high schools have these qualified health care providers on-site; however, most do not. If your child’s school does not have an athletic trainer providing coverage at an athletic competition, tournament, or event, please advocate for funds to be allocated to this purpose. These health professionals are trained to provide first aid, treat injuries, deal with emergency situations and much more. Overall, their presence will allow for a safer environment for athletes to play in.
CPR/First Aid coaches: Are your child’s team coaches first aid/CPR certified? If not, make sure someone working with the teams has this certification. Having more individuals trained in these life-saving skills will give everyone involved additional peace of mind.
Bottom line – prepare yourself well, begin early, and most importantly, HAVE FUN this sports season!
Dr. Merson is a Physical Therapist at Boston Sports Medicine