By: Angelo Marsella MA, ATC, USAW |Partner | Director of Sports Medicine
Summer is a great time to prepare for fall sports. But many young athletes don’t train and work out throughout the summer, despite pre-season training plans provided by their coaches. The best thing you can do is keep up your conditioning and stay in shape. If you are an athlete or a parent of an athlete, here are some great tips to prevent injury, along with information to help determine if you are sore or actually injured and sport-specific exercise tips to help you be prepared for the pre-season and in-season games.
Tips to Prevent Injuries
It is important to condition and strengthen all parts of the body to prevent injury. Here are conditioning tips and a few more things to keep in mind as you get ready for the preseason.
- Lower body: Includes calves, quads, hips, and hamstrings. To strengthen these areas and prevent injury you can try squats, deadlifts, box jumps and running.
- Upper body: Includes shoulders, biceps, and triceps. Most people naturally perform bench presses and push-ups, but you can also try shoulder exercises (i.e., crossover arm stretch) to keep your rotator cuff strong and flexible.
- Core: Is the center of your body and controls any movement that you are doing. A great way to supplement your workout and strengthen your core is to try resistant bands and/or the medicine ball. Medicine balls come in all weights and sizes for a great core workout.
- Cardio: Improves your endurance by increasing your heart rate and breathing rate and should be a big part of your conditioning. You can try running or non-weightbearing exercises like swimming or biking. It all depends on what works for you and your interest level.
- Hydration: Always stay hydrated. Dehydration affects the muscles and can cause you to cramp up and set you back. To maintain, drink water and plenty of it. Also, avoid strength training during the hottest time of day, typically between 11am – 2pm.
- Nutrition: Similar to a car, your body needs fuel to perform. Nutrition is not only important before you work out but equally as important afterwards to maintain a healthy body.
- Overtraining: There is a fine balance between training hard and overtraining. We recommend a 3-day workout model, i.e., M-W-F, alternating days with heavy, medium, and light training, 45 minutes – 1 hour (only) targeting the bigger muscles groups first (i.e., legs and arms).
Difference Between Muscle Soreness and Injury
During your training and workouts, soreness is expected, whether you’re a novice or an expert. Sometime athletes will experience soreness a day or two after a workout. This is very common and is referred to as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). If you are sore to the touch and maybe not able to walk normally, it’s okay as long as you still have full range of motion, even with some discomfort.
Signs of injury includes swelling in a particular area. This is a sign there is something wrong. Also, if the soreness does not go away in 2-3 day you should see your doctor as this might be a sign of injury.
To prevent soreness, it is important to stretch and use the foam roller both before and after your workout. Most people neglect this very important part of training. Only 10-15 minutes of stretching can make a big difference in excessive soreness the next day.
Sport-Specific Exercise Tips
Every sport has a few specific injury prevention tips to think about as you start your sport in the Fall.
As an athlete or parent of an athlete who plays football, causes and signs of concussions are probably top of mind. The most important thing to prevent concussions is utilizing the proper technique provided by your coaches. We suggest you incorporate neck strengthening programs to help reduce the risk of injury, including concussions. And lastly, communicate to your athletic trainer or coach if something does not feel right, so proper treatment can be given, and injury can be prevented.
A few common injuries for soccer and lacrosse athletes are ankle, knee, and hip injuries. To help injury prevention it is particularly important to work out your core and glutes. We also suggest doing ankle stability exercises, i.e., single leg balancing on stable or unstable surface.
Ankle and knee injuries are also very common if you are a volleyball athlete. Repetitive jumping can also cause a lot of knee pain. This is commonly called Jumper’s Knee (medically known as patellar tendonitis) and typically causes pain below the kneecap. When your quads and hamstrings are tight it can cause extra stress on the knees, so a lot of stretching during, before and after will help.
This type of running is an outdoor endurance sport and can bring on injuries such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and muscle strains. Sufficient warm-ups, cool-downs, leg strengthening and stretching can help prevent these injuries. Additional injury prevention tips include building mileage up slowly, stay hydrated and make sure you have a good supportive shoe. Worn-out shoes contribute to pain in your feet, arch, or heel.
If you are an athlete hoping to perform your best during the season or a parent who wants to help their child avoid injury, it’s important to prepare properly. But, sometimes, despite our best precautionary efforts, injuries happen. Professional Physical Therapy is here for you. Our certified physical therapy professionals, our athletic trainers and sport medicine specialists can assess the problem and customize a plan just for you. If you are experiencing pain, request an appointment at Professional. We are here to help you reach your goals and get your life healthier and more comfortable today.