Sports can help inspire student-athletes to excel on and off the field, court, or turf. Remember to have fun and avoid injuries by preparing in the weeks ahead leading up to your fall sports season beginning.
Here are some tips athletes can follow to prepare for upcoming seasons:
Train Smart – Stay Active
Athletes who take rest periods in between seasons are recommended to increase their activity levels leading up to formal practices gradually. By the time formal training for their chosen sport begins again, the athlete should already be at a fitness level capable of handling the rigor of practice.
Parents and coaches can work together to ensure the volume and intensity of training begins at a level comparable to the fitness level of the athletes on the team, and progression occurs at a reasonable pace. It is essential to not push an athlete over their limit to cause injury.
A proper warmup is active, not passive. Standard passive stretching includes raising muscle or core temperature, and it does not prepare the body for sports participation. It can be useful to increase flexibility following exercise.
A dynamic warmup is the best way to prepare for sports participation. These warmups may include foam rolling, extending hip flexors or hamstrings, light jogging, leg swings, side lunge with opposite hand reach, etc.
Workout with Friends
An athlete can progress faster with the help of a high school coach, friends, or their parent’s involvement. The observation of proper technique in training, understanding strategies involved with their specific sport, exercise in a safe environment, and receiving positive and respectful communication can all be beneficial for the athlete’s progression.
Participation in a summer recreational sports program gets the athlete involved with friends in a fun environment to stay active before fall sports beginning. Summer Conditioning Programs typically include weight training, conditioning for sport-specific exercises (i.e., strength, speed and power for football and volleyball players; endurance training for cross country runners).
Staying active with friends, a coach, trainer, or through a program helps both new and experienced players also get the opportunity to practice their skills before the season starts.
Check out your local university for the camps they might offer during summer. These camps might include drill sessions or scrimmages to improve skills and practice real-game situations.
No matter how you choose it, stay active to make the transition from your time off a bit easier when formal training begins at the start of the school year.
Write down your goals for the week and schedule specific times to workout.
Develop an exercise plan with attainable and reasonable goals. To set realistic goals, think of what you want to achieve, whether it is making the team or getting in shape. Develop smaller, more specific goals. Once attained, you can build towards new and bigger goals.
Ask your coach, gym teacher, or trainer for advice. During the summer months in preparation for your fall sport, you also have the option of downloading a fitness app, like Nike Training Club or go to your local gym and get a personal fitness trainer to write up a workout plan for you to follow for a summer conditioning program.
Giving your body rest is imperative for muscle growth and your body to recuperate from the intensity of your exercises. Include one to two days off per week from competitive sports training, and at least two months off each year from any sport to prevent repetitive stress injuries.
According to Michigan State University, the body is allowed to adapt to the stress associated with exercise, replenishes muscle glycogen (energy stores) and provides time for the body tissue to repair.
Healthy Diet – Fuel Your Body
Maintaining a balanced, nutritious diet is beneficial for anyone. It is especially imperative for athletes to learn how to fuel their bodies with the proper nutrition because it affects the quality of performance, strength, training, and energy level. Michael Phelps didn’t become an Olympic gold medalist by eating fried and fast food continuously, right? He had a strategic variety of nutrition planned out to achieve his fitness and performance goals.
A healthy diet consists of a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. It is highly recommended for athletes to minimize or completely cut out junk food and high-sugar drinks and foods. The proportions of protein, fats, and carbohydrates (also known as your macros) will depend on the intensity and type of sport for the athlete to receive their individualized balance.
Hydration is Key
Hydration levels of an athlete affect training, competition, and recovery. Athletes can lose a lot of fluids due to sweat, intense exercise, hot temperatures outside, and being at a higher altitude. Athletes should divide their body weight in half and drink at least an ounce per pound that their body weight throughout the day. The amount should be adjusted based on activity level and additional factors. It is essential to hydrate with water or mineral/vitamin infused sports drinks before, during, and after exercise.
There are adverse effects of drinking too much caffeine, soda, sugary energy drinks, sports drinks with high fructose corn syrup and fast food, including slow or decreased energy levels and dehydration. Athletes who are serious about benefiting the team and contributing to their best overall performance on the field or court should gather a basic understanding of sports nutrition along with practicing proper hydration including water and recommended sports drinks with the correct amount of nutrients. Bring bottles of water or sports drinks to practice, and drink at least a full bottle before finishing.
Besides water, replenishing your electrolytes with vitamin-infused sports drinks are beneficial. While water should still be an athlete’s first choice for hydration, sports drinks to consume should include carbs, electrolytes (sodium, potassium), and minerals. Reputable brands include Gatorade, Powerade, and All Sport. Opt for zero-calorie and low-sugar sports drinks to avoid excess calories.
Meal Suggestions Before, During and After Practice
A healthy diet also helps an athlete prepare for lengthy practices.
Within 15-minutes before practice ends, eat a healthy snack that may include the following: fresh fruit, trail mix, granola or protein bar, veggies and hummus, low-fat cheese and yogurt, low-fat microwave popcorn, or peanut butter crackers.
Breakfast is known as being the most important meal of the day. Examples of healthy and nutritious options to start an athletes day: Whole grain cereal with low-fat milk and fruit, whole-grain waffles with peanut butter, banana, reduced-sugar fruit juice.
Before lunch at school, make sure you choose performance-based foods to prepare for your practice after school. Avoid fried foods or fast food; they will leave you with low energy. A good example: Bean and beef burrito topped with salsa, or grilled chicken sandwiches with coleslaw.
For dinner, a good recovery meal can be spaghetti with meat sauce with a salad or vegetables and whole grain bread with olive oil spread. Add in low-fat milk as a drink.
Carbs – An essential fuel for an athlete. It is stored as fuel inside your muscles. Athletes need full complex carbohydrates stored before any physical activity. It is also required after a workout to get ready for the next day’s events. The consumption of carbs is the only fuel used for power moves on the field performance, like making a touchdown or scoring that field goal. It is recommended to drink one to two cups of water and to eat a light snack before practice, like half of a turkey sandwich or an orange with string cheese. After practice or a game, refuel with a sports drink, low-fat chocolate milk, a banana or a handful of trail mix.
Protein – Protein helps build muscle and for your muscles to recover. Lean meats like chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, tofu, edamame, dried beans (black beans, chickpeas, lentils), and nuts and seeds are all great sources of organic protein. If an athlete is not getting enough protein in their diet from whole, organic foods, look into taking protein powders before and/or after a workout to maximize muscle growth.
High-protein snacks to boost athletes daily caloric intake can include:
- Whey or plant-based protein shake
- Protein bars (make sure to check the nutrition facts on the label to ensure clean, healthy, organic ingredients)
- Trail mix with dried fruit
- Whole-grain crackers
- Peanut butter on a banana, bagel or rice cake
- Cheese sticks
- Tuna with crackers and fruit
Plan Ahead – Get the Right Gear and Your Physical Exam(s)
Wearing the proper footwear, catered to the sport an athlete is playing helps to minimize the risk of injury. Investing in good running shoes, for example, helps decrease stress on your legs, hips, and pelvis. Turf shoes are beneficial on dry/hard fields, for the soft midsole absorbs impact forces when the foot hits the ground while running. Cleats work well on soft or wet fields because they provide excellent traction to prevent falls through the absorption of soft fields. Once the shoes show noticeable wear of the sole and/or compression of the midsole, they should be replaced.
Protective Gear and Equipment
Protective gear includes mouthguards, pads, shin guards, face masks, knee braces, and more. Make sure it is clean, safe to use, and fits correctly. Owning the right gear minimizing injury and recovery time for an athlete. Review all necessities for your sport with a coach and/or trainer.
Addition tips to protect yourself before, during practice:
- Wear sunscreen to protect against UVA and UVB rays in the morning and throughout the day
- Bring a change of clothing, including extra socks for after practice
- Change into shower shoes, sandals or flip flops after practice
- Wear rubber spikes without screws or tennis shoes if the ground is hard
- Make sure to report any injuries or discomfort to an athletic trainer or medical professional, if available.
Get the right equipment needed for your sport ahead of time, like gloves, a bat, balls, uniforms, etc.
Physical Exam and Concussion Baseline Test
Every athlete requires a physical exam before participating in sports. The exam is conducted by a licensed physician or medical professional and helps to identify if the individual has issues such as activity-induced asthma, scoliosis, joint pain, heart problems, vision and hearing impairments before the sports season begins. There is a consent and release of liability and completion form for parents that needs to be filled out.
If your child participates in a high-risk contact sport, such as basketball, football, wrestling, volleyball, lacrosse, soccer, etc. they must complete a concussion baseline test. The test includes the measurement of verbal and visual memory, along with processing speed and reaction time. It is a highly-specific questionnaire taken before an athlete gets injured. The data is used to compare to a potential injury that might occur in the future. It measures processing speed, current symptoms, pain levels, balance, physical abilities. The results can provide insight into the extent of an injury and indicate whether or not further tests or treatments may be needed.
HOW TO PREVENT INJURIES | HOW CAN MOA HELP?
At Mountainstate Orthopedic Associates, our physicians and staff have been dedicated to providing comprehensive, state-of-the-art orthopedic care to Morgantown and the surrounding areas since 1977. One of our areas of expertise we often treat includes the prevention of sports-related injuries.
Here are some tips we have to prevent sports injuries:
- Warm up properly before any physical activity.
- Alternate exercising different muscle groups and exercise every other day.
- Cool down properly after exercise or sports.
- Stretching exercises can improve the ability of muscles to contract and perform, reducing the risk of injury.
- Shoe support may correct certain foot problems that can lead to injury.
- If you do sustain a sports injury, make sure you participate in adequate rehabilitation before resuming strenuous activity.
We believe patient care is seeing your orthopedic surgeon at every visit. We want you to get back in the game this fall, pain-free. If you are suffering from a sports-related injury, call to schedule an appointment with us at 304-599-0720.