As fall sports are winding down, there seems to be no time to prepare for winter sports. Each sport places a different demand on the body. When coming into a new season it cannot be assumed that just because you played a fall sport that you are conditioned and ready for a winter sport. Some sports require more endurance than explosive energy, more flexibility than hand/eye coordination and so on. Preparing for each sport individually, as well as taking time for rest and recovery, can prevent a multitude of injuries, including overuse.
Along with a proper balance between rest and sports specific training, here are four ways to help prevent sports injuries when going into a new season.
Know who your athletic trainer is and how to access them. Speak with the athletic trainer about any existing injuries and let them know if new injuries occur. Don't wait to treat an injury that could be a minor setback because it could turn into a serious injury that leaves you on the bench. A pre-participation physical should address any pre-existing conditions, such as asthma. Do you have an up-to-date inhaler or other medications to treat those conditions? Have you done IMPACT testing for a baseline measurement in case of concussion down the road?
Maintain good nutrition. There can be a lot of differences in what type of body composition is desired for which sport. Think along the lines of "get big for football, get small for wrestling." Make sure you have a healthy and realistic mindset of what that should look like. All athletes should be eating healthy, not dieting. Eating healthy will maintain your physical health and help build strong muscles and bones, as well as keep your immune system and hormone production where it should be. Hormone dysfunction can put an athlete at a greater risk for osteoporosis and stress fractures, especially in cases with menstrual dysfunction. Losing weight too quickly can also affect your mental health in addition to making it more difficult for recovery of injuries.
Stay hydrated. Just because an athlete is moving inside in a controlled environment, does not mean they can ignore heat illness or dehydration. Athletes need to be drinking water before, during and after sports. Even early stages of dehydration or heat illness can cause muscle weakness and memory deficits which lower performance. Watch for headache, dizziness, feelings of fatigue, nausea, dry mouth, sunken eyes and little urination that is dark and smelly.
Maintain good personal hygiene. Poor personal hygiene can cause a multitude of viral, bacterial or fungal skin infections such as MRSA. To prevent these infections, shower after each practice and game. Launder any clothes or equipment used and wipe down equipment that cannot be washed (i.e. headgear, mats and weights). Never share towels or other personal hygiene products, like razors or deodorants. If a rash appears, seek medical attention for diagnosis, possible treatment with prescription and risk of contagiousness.
Communication is a major key to being healthy. Athletes need to keep parents, athletic trainers and coaches informed should an issue or injury occur.
If you do not have an athletic trainer, be aware of signs and symptoms of an injury or sickness and contact a doctor when needed.
Elissa Veldhuis is a clinical athletic trainer at Susquehanna Health Sports Medicine. The sports medicine team is comprised of fellowship trained physicians and athletic trainers that specialize in orthopedics and sports medicine.