Prevention starts long before the whistle blows and includes everything from drinking enough water to wearing properly fitted safety equipment.
We asked two doctors from Colorado Health Medical Group, the physician-led medical group of University of Colorado Health, to weigh in on some of the most important tips they stress with their patients who are involved in youth sports.
Here are seven tips to prevent injuries in youth sports:
1. Know the signs of a concussion
A concussion is a brain injury that is caused by a blow or jolt to the head. The signs may include headache, loss of consciousness, confusion, forgetfulness, dizziness, fatigue, slurred speech, nausea and ringing in the ears. For a full list of symptoms, go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s concussion page.
“If a concussion is suspected, the athlete should not return to the game or practice and should be evaluated by a doctor before returning to the sport,” said Dr. Peyton Taliaferro of Colorado Health Medical Group Primary Care South Loveland.
2. Beat the heat
Athletes and coaches should be aware that greater risks accompany workouts when the temperature is warmer than 80 degrees and the humidity is above 70 percent. To cope with warm weather workouts, Dr. Amy Driscoll of Peakview Medical Clinic said, “Athletes need to take frequent water breaks instead of waiting until they are thirsty.” She also suggests athletes wear minimal clothing to allow their skin to evaporate sweat.
If an athlete feels nauseated, weak or dizzy, the athlete should tell a coach and not try to keep playing.
3. Ramp up the activity
If an athlete has taken a couple months of time off, it’s important to get back into workout routines gradually.
“If you start up too quickly, you have a much higher risk of injury,” Taliaferro said.
4. Avoid head injuries
While it may be impossible to prevent every head injury, prevention can go a long way.
Dr. Driscoll said “Athletes should wear a properly fitted helmet that is appropriate for the sport being played. In football, players should not tackle with a head-down position. If a head injury does occur, the athlete should not keep playing without getting checked out.”
5. Take care of injuries
“After sustaining a spring or strain, rehabilitation is important. An athlete should begin by focusing on range of motion,” Dr. Taliaferro said. Then, shift your focus to strength, coordination and joint position-sense.
“Even if the sprain seems minor, focusing on these three disciplines will keep you from re-injuring yourself, and the next injury can be much worse,” he said.
6. Keep fluids flowing
Water is the only fluid needed for exercise lasting less than an hour. If the workout is going to last longer than an hour, a sports drink may be a better option.
According to Dr. Driscoll, one pound of body weight loss should be replaced by 16 ounces of fluids.
7. Know your nutrition
When a diet is well-balanced, an athlete does not need extra vitamins or protein supplements, Dr. Driscoll said.
For those who want to load up on carbohydrates for an added boost of energy, Dr. Driscoll said carb loading 2-3 hours before a competition is okay. She said the pre-game meals for endurance sports should be 24-48 hours before the event starts.
Some athletes need to lose weight to compete in a certain weight group for their sport. If this is the case for your child, remember that kids should not lose more than 1-2 pounds per week.
Is it time to schedule your sports physical or annual exam?
Before children step onto the court or field for the first time this season, they need to get a sports physical or annual exam to make sure their bodies are ready. To schedule an annual exam or find a primary care doctor near you visit pvhs.org/clinics or call 970.392.4752.