The dawn of a new school year is an exciting time for school-aged youngsters. Though many kids may not look forward to homework or getting up early, a new school year is often exciting for young athletes who long to get back on the playing fields and compete with their teammates.
As valuable and exciting as participating in team sports can be, they can just as easily prove dangerous for athletes who aren’t prepared for the rigors of physical activity.
A summer spent lounging poolside might be just what kids need after a long school year, but that relaxation can put youngsters in jeopardy of suffering an injury when they return to team sports in the fall.
Many a young athlete has pulled a hamstring or suffered a shin splint when returning to athletic competition after a long layoff. But such injuries are largely preventable, and the following tips can help school-aged athletes ensure their return to competition is as painless as it is pleasurable.
Condition your muscles
In the weeks heading up to tryouts or the start of the school year condition your muscles. Many fall sports feature tryouts near the end of summer or at the very beginning of the school year. That means athletes must start conditioning their muscles early.
Discuss with your parents, coaches and physicians which muscles you will be working when playing a particular sport. Adults should help you develop a conditioning program that gets the right muscle groups ready for the rigors of your sport. A properly conditioned athlete has a much lesser risk of injury than one who is not. Your offseason conditioning program should begin slowly and gradually grow more challenging as you draw closer to the school year.
Stretch, stretch, and stretch
Always stretch your muscles before any strenuous activities, whether it’s an offseason conditioning program or an in-season competition. Stretching significantly reduces your risk of injury and can improve your performance on the field.