3 Things Every Athlete Must Do to Prevent Injuries
There is an epidemic amongst our youth athletics.
That epidemic is the rise in sport-related injuries.
Over 3 million kids under the age of 14 will be injured each year playing their sport.
These numbers continue to rise as our youth athletes are competing more and more, specializing earlier in one specific sport, while spending less time developing their overall strength, flexibility, body mechanics and fitness levels.
In fact, over 50% of youth related injuries are caused by overuse.
In other words, our youth athletes are over-competed and under-conditioned to handle the long, repetitive stresses their bodies face while playing their sport.
Think about the youth baseball player who throws hundreds of pitches per week.
Did you know throwing a baseball is the one of the fastest and most violent actions in sports?
This extremely explosive movement takes place mainly at a fragile shoulder joint.
Now ask him to do this year round.
Certain areas of his body become very overdeveloped, worn down, and stressed while others are neglected.
Over time this causes a variety of issues like inflammation, pain, reduction in range-of-motion and faulty movement patterns -- significantly increasing the risk of injury.
The good news is, most of these injuries are very preventable.
With the right management of our athletes and proper age-specific training, we can greatly reduce this youth injury epidemic leading to longer, healthier athletic careers.
1| Take time off from your sport
This is one of the most challenging areas to get coaches, athletes, and parents on board with.
Today there is a lot of pressure on our youth athletes.
Pressure to play on the local club team.
Pressure to play at the next showcase event where that college might see you.
Pressure to play year-round.
What if I were to tell you that playing year round in all those games and tournaments is actually making you a worse athlete?
What if I were to tell you college coaches now prefer multi-sport athletes?
We are not saying don’t be active. However, this is a great time to get away from your sport and the repetitive stresses and movements of your sport.
This is a great time to keep up your fitness levels and strength by participating in other sports and activities that will in the end expose you to different actions and movements, making you a better overall athlete.
All that competing is hurting you for a couple of reasons.
1) You are never recovering.
This is where most athletic injuries happen.
The long season takes its toll. Your joints are inflamed, your muscles are damaged, and your overall energy is down. The mental stresses of competition cause you to fatigue even more.
Now continue to compete and see performance decline. You aren’t as fast as you were. You aren’t as strong as you were.
This chronic fatigue your body has accumulated isn’t allowing you to display your true athleticism.
Not only is your performance going to suffer but this overuse and fatigue are greatly increasing your risk of injury.
There is no mistake that most injuries, (especially ACL injuries) come at the end of games, when fatigue has set in.
Give yourself time away from your sport for a couple months and let your body heal and rebuild.
2) It’s not allowing you to improve physically.
Which brings us to our next athletic must.
2| Dedicate time to performance training
Ready to improve your athletic performance?
Are you looking to improve your overall speed, strength, power output, and endurance.
Do you want to hit the ball further, play better defense, be quicker to the ball, or speed by your defender?
As they say, “speed kills”, and coaches love it!
All of your athletic qualities can be GREATLY improved with performance training.
Performance Training is a specific strength and conditioning program geared towards improving your performance.
It improves your ability to react, cut, sprint, change direction, jump, resist fatigue, and display strength.
Those areas of improvement are crucial for athletic success but worthless if you are injured and cannot play.
The most important area that performance training improves is your ability to prevent injury.
This is done through:
Increasing overall flexibility and joint mobility
Preparing the body for the fast actions of sport
Improving endurance (the less fatigue you experience during a game or practice, the less likely you are to get injured)
Strengthening and protecting bones, tendons, muscles, and joints
Improving your ability to accept force when you cut and jump (drastic decrease in ACL injury)
Improving body mechanics and alignment
3| Fuel your body for performance
The final piece of the injury prevention puzzle is your nutrition.
As we have stated, fatigue changes everything and drastically increases your risk of getting hurt.
We decrease fatigue through adequate rest, performance training, and nutrition.
Think of your body as a sports car.
What do you think will happen to the performance of that car if you put the wrong fuel in it?
How fast will it go and for how long if you skip its oil changes and overall maintenance.
You’ve now taken a Ferrari and made it a slow Prius.
Our bodies are no different.
What we put in our bodies matters a whole lot. Maybe even more than the practices, training, and games.
If you want to perform at the highest level, you need to start fueling your body at the highest level.
Too little food or the wrong foods in your system and you’re going to quickly fatigue and greatly increase your risk of injury.
When it comes to regular meals during the day, focus on well-balanced, whole foods.
Create your meals by choosing a protein source (eggs, chicken, turkey, yogurt, fish, etc), a carbohydrate source (rice, potatoes, oatmeal, pasta, vegetables, fruit, etc.) and a smaller source of healthy fats (avocado, coconut, nuts, etc.).
Aim to stay hydrated throughout the day.
When it comes to practices, games, and performance training, eat a small meal or snack 30-45 min before.
Here you want foods rich in protein and carbohydrates to give you the energy to perform at your best.
This will help you sprint faster and longer, jump higher, hit the ball further, and keep you as strong in the first quarter as the last.
Some examples are:
Turkey sandwich with a cup of fruit
1 cup of plain oatmeal, mixed berries, and peanut butter
Yogurt with mixed berries and nuts
When your training or competition is done your body is left in a fatigued, stressed, and energy drained state.
This timing is CRUCIAL to get your muscles the proper nutrients needed to help recover, rebuild, and get ready for your next training and/or competition.
Within 30 minutes, get in a nutrient rich meal with a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein.
Here are a few sample meals:
Grilled chicken, sweet potato, and mixed vegetables
Steak tips, rice, with a side salad
Eggs, whole wheat toast, cup of berries