The sports medicine team at Lurie Children’s Hospital is dedicated to teaching children and adolescents how to prevent sports-related injuries and good sports-related health practices. Learn how you can help your children stay off of the bench and on the field, injury-free, by reading our advice below.
Use our general tips to help prevent injuries that apply to many sports:
Ten minutes of light jogging or cycling before practice will increase circulation to cold muscles, making them more pliable and less prone to strain or rupture. Studies have shown that an active warm-up is associated with better athletic performance than a warm-up that consists only of static stretching.
Tight muscles are more prone to injury. Tight muscles also put more stress on the attached tendons and bones, putting these tissues at risk for injury as well. Regular stretching can improve muscle flexibility. The ideal time to stretch is after your workout. Include all major muscle groups. Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and do not bounce.
Allow an appropriate amount of time for rest and recovery between workouts. Schedule at least one to two days off each week. It is also important to schedule an “off-season” — a minimum of four weeks of rest from sports each year. This is easily overlooked when you play more than one sport or play one sport year-round.
Young people are more prone to dehydration and heat illness than adults, so you should not wait until you are thirsty to drink. Drink before, during and after workouts. Drink water for exercise that lasts less than an hour. Use a sports drink for longer workouts. Avoid caffeine, juices and carbonated beverages.
Respond Promptly to Injuries
Pain is a sign of injury, stress or overuse. You should not play through pain. If pain does not resolve after a day or two of rest, consult your physician. The sooner an injury is identified, the sooner proper treatment can begin. The result is shorter healing time and a faster return to the sport.
Participate in a Variety of Sports
A variety of sports provides for balanced muscle development, prevents burnout and decreases the risk for overuse injuries. Specializing in only one sport is not recommended until after puberty.
Begin New Activities Slowly
A good way to prepare for a new sport is to participate in a pre-season conditioning program. Increase distance or duration no more than 10% per week.
Use the Right Equipment
Be sure equipment fits properly and is in good condition. Runners should change their shoes every 300 to 500 miles.
Get a Sports Physical
Before sports seasons begin, find a sports medicine physician who can help assess readiness for sports, address any medical issues that may cause risk of injury and offer recommendations to ensure safe sports participation.