Practices for the MHS fall sports season officially kicked off Monday, August 7.  After more than nine months since the Dragons have taken to the football field, soccer field, volleyball court and cross country trails, it’s time for these athletes to take to the spotlight once again.  The beginning of a new sports season is exciting, full of goals and hopes to accomplish before it comes to a close.  If there is one thing that will derail any dreams of a successful season it's a sports injury.

Coaches and athletes know all too well how one wrong move, one badly landed foot or one wrong hit can be all that it takes to put a player out for the season.  In many ways, such an injury is just bad luck, a fluke accident outside a player’s control that couldn’t be avoided.  But, on the other hand, there is a lot that players and coaches can do to minimize injuries and the rehabilitation time they will need before getting back into the game.  

According to the Center for Disease Control, high school athletes account for an estimated 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits, and 30,000 hospitalizations annually in the United States.  Players are experiencing everything from traumatic injuries, more likely to happen during a competition when there is more intensity and aggression in their play, to overuse injuries from the constant stress of their growing bodies.  

Knowing that sports place the body at an inherently higher risk of injury, coaches, athletes and parents can do a lot to minimize or even avoid injuries.  There are a handful of strategies and tactics that can be used to keep athletes physically strong and equipped to lessen the severity of the injury and cut down on rehab time.

The first thing athletes need to do before their season starts to prevent any injuries is to get a sports physical done so they can be aware of any existing injuries or conditions.  Knowing this will help them to know if there are any movements or situations they should avoid to keep from further damaging an injury.

  A second, simple step to avoiding injuries is to sufficiently warm up before moving into more intense and aggressive play.  Cold muscles have very little elasticity and can be much more easily strained or torn.  Moving through both active and static stretching will help those muscles and joints be ready for the stresses of playing all out is a crucial step to avoiding injury.  An easy way for athletes and coaches to know when they are sufficiently warmed up is to look for these four signs- an elevated heart rate and breathing rate, feeling warm throughout the body and the onset of perspiration. 

Being physically strong can certainly up the game of any athlete but having a strong core is especially important to avoiding sports injuries.  It may seem silly to strengthen the core to avoid knee and ankle injuries since they are so far apart.  But a strong abdomen and back are key to good balance, stability and power so that other muscles and joints aren’t overtaxed.

Using proper technique throughout various sports can also keep athletes from causing undue strain and injury.  Teaching the right way to tackle, serve, kick or throw can be the difference in creating an injury.  Adding unnecessary stress to muscles and joints with improper technique is sure to cause an injury at some point of that athlete’s career.  This also means using the proper sized equipment to make sure that it isn’t pulling an athlete out of the proper position or stance.

Fueling the body the right way can also play an important role in avoiding injury.  An athlete is placing stressful demands on their bodies, especially young people that are still growing so it’s important to make sure that they are getting plenty of nutrients to replenish what they have used.  Burning through their energy stores and building new muscles requires nutrient dense carbohydrates and proteins to be replenished.  Sweating not only depletes the body’s water but also can cause an electrolyte imbalance.  Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated and adding electrolytes from drinks, foods and supplements will help keep the body fueled to work at its best.

A final strategy athletes, coaches and parents should use is to make sure players have plenty of rest.  More often than not, the injuries that an athlete will sustain are from overuse and too little rest.  It's important to find rest in all different ways from getting enough sleep at night to taking a break from the constant physical demands of sports.  In some ways, taking a rest day might feel counterintuitive, but allowing muscles, tendons and ligaments time to recover is an important part to keeping them healthy and injury free.

Keeping the MHS Dragon athletes healthy and injury free will put them at the top of their game as they move into the 2023-2024 sports year.  Coaches, players, and fans can all play a part to encourage healthy habits to prevent and reduce sports injuries as we work to take Malad sports to the top.

Source link