By Rachel Amarosa
The end of summer marks the return of fall sports. For most of our local middle school and high school athletes, this year is more exciting because most sports were either altered or canceled last year due to COVID-19.
Since COVID-19’s onset, many different aspects of our lives have changed; however, because of safety precautions and protocols we are able to see some sense of normalcy with our youth teams returning this year. Currently, most of our schools are a few weeks into their preseasons, which is usually when we start to see the repetitive-stress and sports-related injuries begin to plague our teams.
About 62 percent of sports-related injuries occur during practice rather than in games. The most common types of injuries among youth athletes are muscle strains, sprains, growth plate injuries and repetitive motion injuries. Our goal as health care providers is for our athletes to enjoy and excel healthfully in their sports participation. One way we promote this is through education, which can help to prevent many of these injuries.
The first way we can prevent injury is knowing and implementing a proper warmup, necessary prior to all participation, whether it be practice, training or competition. A warmup should consist of 5 to 10 minutes of aerobic activity such as jogging or skipping. In addition, starting with low-intensity sports, specific actions such as dribbling a soccer ball or light throwing along with short periods of dynamic stretching is important.
Begin slowly to increase your heart rate and skill development, then increase your intensity with more sport-specific skills and movement such as jumping, sprinting, bounding and cutting. These activities continue to add benefits by increasing blood flow, deep muscle temperatures and respiration rate.
Another essential component to injury prevention is making rest a part of an athlete’s week. Having an athlete understand the need for rest can prevent injuries throughout their entire season. Overloading the joints, muscles and tendons cause your body to break down. Adequate rest allows for the appropriate recovery between sessions along with encouraging long-term athletic participation.
Youth athletes should have at least one to two days off from any sport each week. Absolute rest is not recommended or necessary. Building in a day of dynamic stretching appears to be the best recovery mode to enhance performance and cardiorespiratory responses.
To help promote recovery and soft tissue mobility, self-massage techniques such as a foam roller or stick massager can be extremely beneficial to implement throughout the season. In addition, proper nutrition and hydration should be a major focus along with maximizing an athlete’s sleep. Sleep is one of the most important factors in recovery with 8 to 10 hours nightly. This will assist in an athlete’s adaptation to physical, neurological and emotional stresses of their training.
Finally, the best advice is to listen to your body. There is a fine line between soreness and pain from an injury. Athletes can, unwittingly or not, often cross this line. The advantage of understanding when pain is present and getting treatment at the start of an issue instead of trying to play catch up, helps keep an athlete’s time on the sidelines to an absolute minimum.
Our philosophy with physical therapy and athletic training is always to take care of the injury immediately and completely to prevent progression. It’s much better to miss a few days taking care of a small injury rather than having that small injury linger and progressing into a significant season-ending injury.
Whether you are an athlete, coach or parent, you can play an important role in ensuring a young athlete’s experience and success in sports. For everyone participating this fall, we wish you good luck and a great season!
Rachel Amarosa is a certified athletic trainer for ProClinix Sports Physical Therapy & Chiropractic. She is the marketing and patient relations director for its three locations in Armonk, Pleasantville and Ardsley. For questions about this article or about ProClinix, Amorosa can be reached at 914-202-0700 or at email@example.com.