We interrupt your week full of fall sports carpools to remind you that although playing a sport helps kids strengthen muscles and bones, promotes a healthy weight, increases endurance, and builds community, it also comes with the risk of getting injured. The good news, according to Dr. Peter Salob, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and pediatric sports medicine specialist with Englewood Orthopedic Associates, a part of the Englewood Health Physician Network, is that many injuries can be prevented.
"Some of the more common sports injuries are sprained ankles, shin splints, and ACL tears," says Dr. Salob. Here's how you can help your child prepare for their sports season and then stay healthy all the way to the end:
1. Get the "All Clear" from your child's doctor. Schedule a pre-participation check up with your pediatrician so you can let them know your child is gearing up for sports season. Your pediatrician can screen for potential problems and either provide guidance on how to avoid them or refer you to someone who can help.
2. Pre-game their sports season with conditioning. Ease your child into their sports season at least a week before practices actually start. Jumping right into daily practice and games can be hard on your kid's body, according to Dr. Alandra Greenlee, DPM, a foot and ankle surgeon and podiatric medicine specialist who works with Dr. Salob. Coaches, gym teachers, or trainers can help develop a workout that works for your kid. Scheduling specific workout times and sticking to the schedule will get your kid in top shape before their season starts.
3. Prioritize the warm-up. Stretching and warming up helps prepare the body for aerobic activity. It gradually activates the cardiovascular system by raising the body temperature and increasing blood flow to the muscles. Stretching before playing can reduce soreness and lessen the risk of injury.
4. Gear up. Athletes need to wear appropriate protective gear during practices and games. Shin guards for soccer players, kneepads for volleyball players, a hard-shell helmet for batters, and helmets and pads for ice hockey and football players. These precautions will prevent unnecessary injuries and concussions.
5. Stay hydrated. During these warm late summer practices and games, it's easy to forget to drink enough and get dehydrated. Athletes should be taking regular water breaks and drinking water or an electrolyte sports drink before, during, and after exertion. Pssst, they should be doing this even after the weather gets cooler, too!
6. Listen to your body. Yes, it is important to be at practice and show the coach that you're dedicated. No, it doesn't help anyone if that dedication leads to an injuiry that ends your season. Kids need to know when to take it easy. They should be reminded that they shouldn't practice or play a game when they're exhausted or in pain. "Allow your child to listen to their own body when it says it needs rest and relaxation," says Dr. Greenlee.
7. Know when to ask for help. If your child is experiencing persistent pain that interferes with movement, or if they have excessive swelling, bruising, or bleeding that doesn't improve, it's time to schedule an appointment to have their injury evaluated, says Dr. Salob.
Dr. Salob and Dr. Greenlee see patients at Englewood Orthopedic Associates, located on South Van Brunt Street in Englewood, NJ. The Englewood Health Physician Network also has orthopedic offices in Paramus, Cliffside Park, Jersey City, and Fair Lawn. For more information or to find a doctor or make an appointment, visit: englewoodhealth.org/appointments. Alright, now get out there and play ball!