Growing up, both of my kids were active in sports, and I believe that it played a key role in keeping them healthy throughout their childhood. It’s important to remember, though, that without proper preparation, sports participation can put your child at risk for injury.
Parents can minimize these risks through proper nutrition and body-conditioning. Here are some tips for helping your child prevent injuries on and off the playing field:
-Wear the proper equipment. Certain contact sports, such as football and hockey, can be dangerous if the equipment is not properly fitted. Make sure all equipment, including helmets, pads and shoes fit your child or adolescent. Talk to your child’s coach or trainer if the equipment is damaged.
– Eat healthy meals. Make sure your young athlete is eating a well-balanced diet and does not skip meals. Avoid high-fat foods, such as candy bars and fast food. At home, provide fruit rather than cookies, and vegetables rather than potato chips.
– Maintain a healthy weight. Certain sports, such as gymnastics, wrestling and figure skating, may require your young athlete to follow strict dietary rules. Be sure your child does not feel pressured into being too thin and that he/she understands that proper nutrition and caloric intake is needed for optimal performance and endurance.
– Drink water. Hydration is a key element to optimal fitness. Teenage athletes should drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Younger athletes should drink five to eight 8-ounce glasses of water.
– Avoid sugar-loaded, caffeinated and carbonated drinks. Sports drinks are a good source of replenishment for those kids engaged in long duration sports, such as track and field.
– Follow a warm-up routine. Be sure your child or his/her coach includes a warm-up and stretching session before every practice, game or meet. A slow jog, jumping rope and/or lifting small weights reduces the risk of torn or ripped muscles. Flexibility is key when pushing to score that extra goal or make that critical play.
– Take vitamins daily. A multi-vitamin and Vitamin C are good choices for the young athlete. Vitamin B and amino acids may help reduce the pain from contact sports. Thiamine can help promote healing. Also consider Vitamin A to strengthen scar tissue.
– Avoid trendy supplements. Kids under the age of 18 should avoid the use of performance-enhancing supplements, such as creatine. Instead, they should ask their coach or trainer to include weekly weight training and body-conditioning sessions in their workout.
– Get plenty of rest. Eight hours of sleep is ideal for the young athlete. Lack of sleep and rest can decrease performance. Sluggishness, irritability and loss of interest could indicate that your child is fatigued.
Have questions or concerns about your child’s sports participation? I have treated many young athletes for a variety of sports-related neuromusculoskeletal conditions, and can provide advice on sports training, nutrition and injury prevention. Call our office at 425-778-9600 to schedule a consultation.