Injury Prevention for Back-to-School Sports
As fall is quickly approaching, most parents would agree that back-to-school preparation is in full swing. Along with lists of school supplies, buying new clothes and coordinating carpools, parents should consider if their child is ready to participate in a fall sport. After a summer of relaxing, it is important to remember that healthy and safe sports participation requires a basic foundation of strength, power, flexibility, aerobic endurance and agility. Your child should demonstrate good physical fitness and conditioning before he/she steps onto the field this fall.
Children are susceptible to overuse injuries that are most common during and after growth spurts and after longer periods of latency (such as summer months). An overuse injury occurs when there is damage to the bone, muscle, ligament or tendon secondary to repetitive stress. This injury will cause pain during or after an activity, which may or may not restrict the performance of the young athlete.
The best prevention is to have your child participate in a variety of different sports and activities, giving them the opportunity to cross train to avoid constant stress to specific muscle groups and ligaments. Participation in a school sport in addition to multiple traveling teams at the same time may lead to overtraining and a higher risk for injury. It is important for children to include strengthening, stretching and plyometric training to develop a good foundation for sport-specific skills. In general, stretching of the hamstrings and calves, and core strengthening of the abdominals, gluteals and scapular muscles are key exercises to include in conditioning programs.
Adequate rest periods, proper hydration and nutrition are also imperative for muscle healing, recuperation and overall performance. You should encourage your child to drink water before, during and after sports participation in order to prevent dehydration. Some signs and symptoms of dehydration include: diminished activity, sleepiness, thirst, decreased urine output, dry skin, headache, constipation, and/or dizziness. It is also important for your young athlete to maintain a well-balanced diet. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following breakdown of total calories for a young athlete in training: 55-75% carbohydrates, 15-20% protein and 25-30% fats.
Kristin Flynn is a doctor of physical therapy at the CA Technologies Rehabilitation Center within Hospital for Special Surgery’s Lerner Children’s Pavilion.