High school sports in Maine are right around the corner, and before you know it the athletes will be out on the fields twice a day working towards that one common goal of winning a state championship. Is your child ready for that grueling two week stretch in late August? Have they healed from that nagging injury from the last sports season? Here are some tips to properly prepare for the seasons ahead.
1. Complete your summer conditioning program.
Though you may grumble and moan, the summer conditioning program serves a very important purpose. It prepares your body for the stresses you are about to endure in the upcoming season. As athletic trainers we hear all too often "I just started running a mile two weeks ago; now I'm running ten miles a day and my shins are killing me." The best injury prevention is preparation.
2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
Did you know that you can lose as much as five pounds in one sports practice? Football players may lose even more with all of the equipment they wear! You must replace the fluid that you lose, or it could lead to problems very quickly, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Water is by far the best way to hydrate for exercise. The National Athletic Trainer's Association recommends that athletes drink 17-20 ounces of water two hours before exercise, 7-10 ounces every 10-20 minutes at practice, and complete fluid loss replacement within two hours after practice. Frequent water breaks and staying away from soda are the key. Supplementing with sports drinks is a great idea as well. They replenish lost electrolytes but be sure to use them in moderation. For easy water tracking, purchase a water bottle with the ounces marked on the side. NO ENERGY DRINKS!
3. Eat well balanced meals and don't forget breakfast.
Don't skip breakfast! Your body fasts all night while you sleep, and if you don't eat upon waking, your body will have no fuel for that morning practice. You'll also feel very tired and lethargic all day. Eating even a small breakfast, like a banana or yogurt, will give your body the energy boost it needs and will rev up your metabolism for the day. Don't forget to refuel after practice as well. Eat whole grains, lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables. Limit processed foods and simple sugars.
4. Shower after every practice and wear clean clothes to every practice.
With the abundance of skin rashes, staph infections, and MRSA, don't take the risk. Staph and MRSA are known to spread like wildfire around teams, and according to the CDC, there are about 80,000 MRSA infections each year. It's an awful infection that is very easily preventable. Clean clothes and clean skin equals less bacteria to spread around. If you have an open wound, blister, or cut, get it covered up before practice. If a wound looks like it may be getting infected (red, swollen, oozing, painful) go seek help from your athletic trainer or your medical provider. Never share any equipment.
5. Break in your cleats and equipment
One of the issues we as athletic trainers see the most is that athletes wear brand new cleats and equipment to the first day of tryouts. This can only lead to painful blisters, ingrown toenails, and may cause other injuries. When buying them in the store, make sure you buy the cleats later in the day due to foot swelling and make sure the toe box isn't too tight. About a week prior to the season, start wearing your cleats around the house for an hour a day and run around outside with them too. Don't wear them for practice until you are completely comfortable.
6. If something hurts, don't ignore it. Go see your certified athletic trainer before it gets worse.
This is preseason. Your shins might hurt, your back might hurt, and that blister may be really annoying in those new cleats. It is a given that you will be sore and tired almost every day, and when your body breaks down, injuries will happen. Don't be afraid to go see your athletic trainer. It is our job to help prevent injuries and get you better so that you can succeed on the field. Even though the pain may be small it can lead to worse injuries down the road that could have been prevented. Take care of your body now so you can have a full, and hopefully successful, injury free season