By Chad E. Aarons, MD, MPT
Now that August is here, children and their parents begin to think about “back to school.” For some children, the return to school is preceded by the return to fall sports. Many student athletes have spent the summer training in preparation for the upcoming sports year and hopefully, that preparation will reduce the risk of injury. However, it is inevitable that some athletes will end up missing a portion of the season due to injuries. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to minimize this risk.
Warming up/Stretching: Young athletes often have the sense of invincibility. They often treat the pre-workout warm up as a time to interact with their peers rather than a time to warm up their muscles for the ensuing practice. Interestingly, research shows that stretching to the point of extreme flexibility does not prevent injuries unless an athlete is participating in an activity that requires that extreme flexibility (such as gymnastics, dance, and figure skating). Stretching and flexibility will increase the amount of power that an athlete has. Additionally, athletes need to be flexible enough to comfortably move through the range of motion that is needed to participate in their individual sport. However, it is actually more important for athletes to make sure that the muscles are slowly warmed prior to engaging in activity. This slow increase in blood flow allows for the muscle to be more prepared for activity.
Hydration: Many injuries occur as fatigue sets in and the athlete becomes dehydrated. Athletes lose water mostly through sweating. Although sweating occurs to help cool the body (as it evaporates from the skin), this loss of water and minerals can cause problems when the exercise is sustained for a long period of time. Water is also lost through breathing and the faster an athlete breathes the more that is lost to the environment.
The American College Of Sports Medicine suggests that “individuals should develop customized fluid replacement programs that prevent excessive (greater than 2 percent body weight reductions from baseline body weight) dehydration.” These hydration guidelines have been offered as a starting point.
Hydration Before Exercise:
- Drink about 15-20 fluid ounces 2-3 hours before exercise.
- Drink 8-10 fluid ounces 10-15 minutes before exercise.
Hydration During Exercise:
- Drink 8-10 fluid ounces every 10-15 min during exercise.
- If exercising longer than 90 minutes, drink 8- 10 fluid ounces of a sport drink (with no more than 8 percent carbohydrate) every 15 – 30 minutes.
Hydration After Exercise:
- Weigh yourself before and after exercise and replace fluid losses.
- Drink 20-24 fluid ounces of water for every one pound lost.
Hopefully with these small tips the chance of injury will be decreased. But if injuries do occur, consult with your child’s healthcare provider.