As a high school athlete, there is nothing more thrilling than hearing your fellow students roar as you score the winning touchdown, goal, kill or basket. Being an athlete means challenging your body both mentally and physically. And there’s nothing more discouraging than being sidelined by an injury, and missing out on the excitement and the memories that last a lifetime.
While all sports have a risk of injury, even if kids are playing it safe, there are ways to reduce the likelihood of injury on the field or the court. Ken Rushford, an athletic trainer with TriHealth Sports Medicine, stationed at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, shared six tips for high school athletes and their parents to consider to prevent injury and enjoy success in their sport. TriHealth Sports Medicine is a service of TriHealth Orthopedic & Sports Institute.
Rushford says proper nutrition is one of the best ways athletes can prevent injury.
“Think of a car,” he said, “if you don’t have proper fuel, the car will stop or break down. The body needs the proper fuel just like a car to perform optimally.”
Rushford said he and his fellow athletic trainers help students determine the “premium or optimum” fuel for success, pointing out that “nutrition before and nutrition after” the game or practice are both important. He recommended athletes eat a well-rounded or well-balanced meal about four hours before a competition, with a mix of 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent proteins and 30 percent fats.
Without proper nutrition, Rushford said athletes will feel sluggish and fatigued during competition and can even develop stress reactions or stress fractures when the bones aren’t receiving proper nutrition.
Warm up, stretch and cool down properly
Rushford said they work to ensure athletes properly warm up, stretch and cool down to increase performance and avoid injury. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, athletes should incorporate stretching into their daily fitness plans to increase flexibility to help prevent injury. A postgame or post-practice cool down is also vital to help sore joints and muscles recover.
Know the rules
Athletes increase their risk of injury when they don’t know the rules of their sports. “If you’re in soccer, know how to properly slide tackle, in football know how to correctly form tackle and avoid spearing someone.,” said Rushford. “Knowing the rules and how to protect yourself from injury is important.” If you know the rules, follow them and play safe to protect yourself and others from injury.