Back to School: 4 Injury Prevention Tips for Young Athletes

By Jason Kang, PT, DPT, TPI Level 1, Director of Pediatrics/Adolescents Program, SPEAR Physical Therapy

The school year is right around the corner and for many students, this means a ramp up in athletic participation. With increasing demands on their growing bodies, kids are more susceptible to getting hurt. Whether these injuries occur from overuse or a traumatic incident, injury prevention for a school-age child can be the most important tool.

What can you do to assist with injury prevention for your young athletes? Here are 4 tips to keep your child healthy.

1. Injury prevention for athletes starts with ensuring your child gets enough sleep

It’s common knowledge that getting the right amount of sleep helps growing children in all sorts of ways. From a sports injury prevention for athletes perspective, inadequate sleep can contribute to a lack of focus, which makes your athlete more susceptible to getting hurt. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night for children aged 14-17 years old, however, young athletes may need even more. Proper sleep is one of the most basic forms of injury prevention for high school athletes or younger children, but can improve focus, reaction time, and athletic performance while decreasing your child’s risk of injury. Research has shown that athletes who slept an average of <8 hours per night were 1.7 times more likely to have had an injury compared with athletes who slept for > 8 hours per night. Sleep is a crucial part of injury prevention for a school-age child in order to provide rest and recovery for your child’s body. Whether your child is recovering from an intense workout or an injury, sleep allows the body to slow down and focus on healing.   


2. Fuel your school-age child with the right nutrition to prevent injuries

    Nutrition is another very important part of a sports performance and injury prevention program for your young athletes. As a parent, you can guide your children regarding what foods they put into their bodies allowing them to make informed decisions throughout the day. Remind them that a balanced diet including fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and proteins is an important contribution to an injury prevention program for athletes and provides the proper energy they need to perform well . Athletes tend to burn calories faster and therefore they need to keep replacing that burned energy with proper foods for replenishment. In addition, proper hydration is essential for injury prevention in high school athletes and other young athletes. Water helps remove toxins that lead to inflammation and helps lubrication of joints preventing aches and pains. Your athlete should be drinking at least 8-10 glasses of water per day (a logical equation to use is to divide your athlete’s body weight in half and drink 1 ounce per pound of body weight) as part of their injury prevention program for athletes.

    3. Stay educated on injury prevention exercises and ideas for athletes!

    Education regarding injury prevention for a school-age child is critical for not only the athlete but also for coaches and parents. Many children come off of a relaxing summer with not much intense activity and then ramp up too quickly into their sport. This can lead to overuse injuries that could have been avoided. It is important to seek out education by a physical therapist or trainer for your children to learn what injury prevention exercises for athletes they should be doing prior to their sports season starting to make sure that they have put appropriate work and conditioning to prepare them for the intense activity to come.

    In addition, children are constantly growing and need to re-learn how to move with their new limb lengths and body masses. They may be trying a completely new sport, or may not be prepared for the demands of their existing sport with their new growing body. Therefore, it is important to seek out a physical therapist prior to participation and ask for a pre-participation screening. Many Physical Therapy companies offer pre-screening clinics for young athletes as a method of injury prevention to help identify mechanical issues or weaknesses that could lead to injuries. Stretches and strengthening injury prevention exercises for athletes are taught to them to help combat these at-risk areas and keep them healthy.

      SPEAR Physical Therapists provide a free injury-prevention screening to young athletes on March 3, 2018

    4. Consider how participation in multiple sports can assist with injury prevention for a school-age child.

    The multi-sport athlete has decreased risk for injury compared to a sport-specific athlete. The multi-sport athlete utilizes different muscles at different angles which helps develop the overall athlete and decreases risk for overuse injuries. It is important as a parent to encourage your children to participate in many sports as part of an injury prevention program for athletes that helps to “optimize success while minimizing injury, psychological stress, and burnout”.

    There’s a lot to consider when it comes to injury prevention for your young athletes. Luckily there’s help. Reach out to a pediatric or adolescents focused physical therapist to help you provide the best care for your young athletes. You can find SPEAR Physical Therapy and other physical therapy clinics that are experienced in suggesting injury prevention exercises that are best for you and your athlete through the BetterPT app and BetterPT website. Don’t wait for your athlete to sustain an injury. Be proactive in injury prevention for your school-age child and book a physical therapy appointment today!

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