With spring sports seasons active and going, it is important to note the specific challenges that these athletes undergo as they progress through their seasons. Unlike the indoor sports of winter, spring athletes often start practicing outside in frigid end-of-winter temperatures and end up competing in the humid heat of spring. We know that all sports have a risk of injury, but there are still precautions and measures that can be taken to avoid those injuries. Contact sports might be responsible for more intense and serious injury, but other sports injuries are surprisingly responsible from constant daily wear and tear. Here are some tips for your kids these season, or yourself!
Experts recommend the following to reduce injury risk to children (or adults) playing sports:
- Take time off. Plan to have at least 1 day off per week and at least one month off per year from training for a particular sport to allow the body to recover.
- Warm Up and Stretch. Warm up for a minimum of 5 to 10 minutes so the body can prepare for an activity.
- Wear the right gear. Players should wear appropriate and properly fit protective equipment such as pads (neck, shoulder, elbow, chest, knee, shin), helmets, mouth guards, face guards, protective cups, and/or eyewear. Young athletes should not assume that protective gear will prevent all injuries while performing more dangerous or risky activities.
- Hydrate. Water is the best beverage to drink. Avoid beverages that are filled with sugar; they cause the body to lose more fluid than when drinking water. Sports drinks could be useful to people doing vigorous activities.
- Consult a Physician. Before you begin a new sport or jump back into an old one you haven’t done in a while, visit your family physician. With a visit to your doctor, you can find out if old injuries have properly healed and/or ensure old injuries do not become chronic problems. If you have ever been diagnosed with heart disease, asthma, or diabetes, consult your doctor before you begin any exercise program.
- Strengthen muscles. Conditioning exercises during practice strengthens muscles used in play.
- Increase flexibility. Stretching exercises after games or practice can increase flexibility. Stretching should also be incorporated into a daily fitness plan.
- Build Gradually. If it has been some time since participating in an activity, slowly ease into it to reduce the risk of an injury. Light exercise, like leisurely walking, can help build stamina. Gradually increase the intensity level before you actively jump into a new activity.
- Use proper technique. This should be reinforced during the playing season.
- Take breaks. Rest periods during practice and games can reduce injuries and prevent heat illness.
- Play safe. Strict rules against headfirst sliding (baseball and softball), and spearing (football), and checking in hockey should be enforced.
- Stop the activity if there is pain.
- Avoid heat injury by drinking plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise or play; decrease or stop practices or competitions during high heat/humidity periods; wear light clothing.