Sports are great for giving children and teens a chance to get some exercise, have some fun and develop their physical skills. However, athletics can also lead to injuries, especially among poorly-prepared young people.
Fortunately, a few simple tips, such as stretching and wearing the right custom athletic socks, can help you keep your young athlete on the healthy and on the field.
Have a Conversation
Injuries happen but many of them are minor. Some of the more serious problems often arise when young athletes decide to push through the pain and keep playing.
A conversation with your young child or teen can help ensure that he or she knows it is okay to take a break when something doesn’t feel right.
This may sound like something you can take for granted. However, a surprising number of injuries could be prevented with early and effective intervention.
In short, having a conversation could be the difference between a minor injury and a serious condition.
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Encourage Warming Up
Stretching and warming up are the most important actions anyone can take to avoid injury. Muscles are less flexible and more prone to injury when cold.
While young athletes are more resilient than adults, getting in the habit of warming up is worthwhile.
Ideally, athletes should use a combination of static and dynamic warmups. Static warmups are stretches such as toe touches in which the athlete holds a position for a certain amount of time.
Dynamic warmups involve movement. For example, jumping jacks and light exercise are dynamic warmups.
Get the Right Equipment
Having the right equipment is important for all sports. Depending on the sport this may include cleats, a helmet and protective pads. Even having the right socks can make a difference.
Before the start of the season, speak with your child’s or teen’s coach to learn what he or she will need to play.
The number one priority is safety. So, the equipment you buy should be in good condition and provide proper protection. This can also be a chance to let your child express him or herself.
For example, custom athletic socks are a fun way to add some personality to your child’s equipment.
Ensure Proper Hydration
Hydration is another key element of avoiding injury and even illness. Rigorous activity such as playing a sport, especially during the hot summer, can cause athletes to quickly sweat out fluids.
This means that the risk of dehydration is high. Dehydration by itself can cause significant symptoms such as nausea and dizziness and can also increase the likelihood of other injuries.
Proper hydration also helps ensure that sports are as enjoyable as possible. Even relatively minor heat-related illness can be unpleasant.
Get a Physical
Take your child or teen to the doctor before the start of the season. In many school districts and programs, physical exams are required to participate in sports. However, even if one is not required, it is a good idea.
A physical will help to identify any problems such as poor flexibility that may lead to injuries while playing. This is especially important if your child has suffered an injury previously.
A doctor can provide guidance on how to best avoid worsening any prior injury.
Make Sure He or She Rests
As you may know, rest is one of the most important parts of fitness. When we exercise, our bodies are stressed and sustain minor damage. This damage is then repaired while resting.
In fact, this is how we build stronger muscles through exercise. So, anyone taking part in physical activity should make sure to take appropriate rests.
Beyond improving fitness outcomes, rest also reduces the chance of injury. Pushing too far past one’s limit is one of the most likely ways to cause a potentially severe injury.
Make sure your child or teen takes breaks when training. Additionally, encourage some time off after major exertions.
Maintain a Good Diet
It is no secret that a good diet is essential for being healthy. However, you may not realize that it can also significantly reduce the likelihood of injury during exercise.
Healthy food such as vegetables and lean proteins help our bodies recover more quickly following rigorous activity. As mentioned above, recovery is essential for avoiding stress injuries from overexertions.
Additionally, we need fuel to exercise. Without a regular, healthy diet, it is difficult for humans to operate at peak performance as is required in sports. Help your child or teen maintain a healthy and well-balanced diet.
Encourage Diverse Exercise
Most sports require specific muscles and joints more than others. For example, the track is almost entirely focused on the lower body.
Focusing exclusively on a single sport can increase the likelihood of injuring the muscles and joints most activated by that sport. Encourage your child or teen to adopt a variety of activities to use different muscles at different times.
The best way to do this is to participate in multiple sports. However, simply varying training activities is also effective. For example, your child or teen may run one day, lift weights the next and practice his or her chosen sport on the third day.
A variety helps improve overall fitness and avoid excess strain.
Focus on Technique
If you have ever lifted weights, you likely know the importance of proper technique. This is true for every sport. Doing things improperly increases the chance of causing an injury. Encourage your young athlete to be rigorous about his or her technique.
For example, a baseball pitcher can throw the ball in several ways. However, each of these pitches has the correct technique. Learning and practicing these can help to reduce the probability of injury related to excess physical stress.
Furthermore, focusing on technique and guidelines can help your child or teen play better as he or she gets older.
Recognize Injuries and Act
Even with all the preparation in the world, injuries sometimes happen. Learning how to recognize them and act appropriately is the best way to mitigate the consequences.
Some injuries are obvious and require immediate medical attention. However, others can be more subtle. For example, you may notice your child limping slightly. This means it is time for a break and possibly some first aid.
Encourage your child to know when something is wrong and to speak up. Taking care of injuries quickly helps prevent them from getting worse.
Ensure Your Young Athlete’s Continued Good Health
It is important to take your child’s or teen’s health and fitness seriously. The tips above, along with the right gear, will help your young athlete to stay in optimal shape and avoid injuries.