Student Athletes Prepare to Hit the Field, Stay off the Bench

As kids head to the field, the court, the pool and more for the upcoming fall sports season, their safety is, as always, a top priority.

During the 2020-2021 year, recreational and school sports were impacted by Covid-19 restrictions that forced the cancellation or postponement of some seasons. In addition, many scheduled games had to be cancelled due to Covid cases.

As a result, many student athletes are getting back to a routine sports schedule for the first time in a year, or maybe more.

“It is important now, more than ever, for coaches, parents and the athletes themselves to ensure that they are physically and mentally prepared prior to their season, especially if they have not had a real season in the last 18 months,” says Tom Moran, Albany Medical Center Trauma Education, Injury Prevention and Outreach Coordinator.

In addition to Covid-19 concerns, athletic injuries such as strains, sprains, fractures and head injuries can impact kids if they don’t take the proper precautions. Each year, approximately 2.6 million children ages 19 and under receive medical treatment for a sports or recreation-related injury.

Moran points out that many common injuries for student athletes can be prevented.

“Good pre-season conditioning, effective stretching, proper nutrition and hydration and properly fitting shoes can help prevent strains and sprains,” Moran says. “Head injuries can be mitigated by wearing properly fitting safety headgear that is appropriate for that sport. It’s also important to make sure that athletes use proper technique and follow appropriate concussion protocols.”

Even with the best preparation, injuries are a part of sports. Moran says if an injury happens, seek medical care when it’s needed.

“Many injuries start out as minor,” Moran says. “If left undiagnosed and untreated, they can develop into conditions that are more serious. A minor injury left unchecked could end a season.”

Here are some additional tips to keep in mind:

Prepare kids for the demands of the sports season. Make sure they receive a physical exam before participating in organized sports. Talk with their coaches about any medical concerns and provide emergency contact information.

Don’t skip warm-ups and stretches. It’s recommended that athletes should start with about 10 minutes of jogging and then 20 to 30 seconds of stretching for all major muscle groups.

Stress the importance of staying hydrated. Staying hydrated before, during and after activity can help to prevent dehydration and other forms of heat illness. It’s also recommended that coaches establish mandatory water breaks whenever possible.

Make time for rest. Breaks during practices and games are helpful. Keeping athletes off the field for one or two days each week can help student athletes avoid injuries caused by overuse of their muscles and bodies.

Support student athletes, no matter your role. Coaches can establish safety guidelines for parents and athletes on everything from hydration to encouraging players to sit out if injured. Parents can support their athletes by talking with them about the simple ways they can be sure to stay in the game.

Additional tips are available at Safe Kids Worldwide.