At Kids in the Game, we prioritize and focus on safe play for all of our young athletes. In order for our kids to have the best performance possible on and off the field, we want to highlight the importance of taking care of our bodies and give you five tips to do so properly! The following tips are a culmination of actions to take before, during, and after any athletic play and practice to give our athletes the best chance of recovery and injury prevention.
Tip #1: Proper Stretching Before and After Activity
An important but at times overlooked part of injury prevention is stretching before and after play, and making sure our bodies are loose and warmed up. In order to best avoid injury, athletes should first warm up the body before intense activity, including stretching by doing light exercise such as running in place or jumping jacks. Once loose, proper and safe stretching is crucial because it keeps the body flexible. When stretching, make sure to hold for 10-20 seconds but never to the point of pain. After exercise, cool down for 10 minutes by decreasing the intensity. Cooling down helps the muscles by decreasing soreness.
Tip #2: Proper Technique and Training
Another major cause of injury in youth is the improper technique used when working out, training, and participating in sports activities. It is important to always remember to listen, follow directions, and not be reckless on the field for not only your safety, but for your peers as well. This includes but is not limited to wearing all equipment the proper way, not taking reckless actions during play, and always having proper form when working out or stretching.
Tip #3: Refraining from Overuse of Body and Muscles
Muscle overuse can cause injuries and have long term effects on the body. Some signs of overuse are severe joint or muscle stiffness, not being able to put weight on a certain body part like the ankle or wrist, favoring one side of the body over the other, and experiencing unusual weakness. In order to best prevent this, young athletes should rest, stretch, hydrate, and have a health and wellness evaluation. These evaluations can identify possible health concerns that may lead to overuse injuries.
Tip #4: Staying Hydrated
In our daily lives outside of sports, it is extremely important that we stay hydrated. Drinking water prevents dehydration which is very common for athletes to experience, especially in sports played outside during hot weather. Additionally, staying hydrated helps prevent cramping and spasms, another common experience for athletes. Some additional benefits of staying hydrated are: improved muscle function, regulated blood pressure, and improved circulation.
Tip #5: Taking Mental Breaks and Rest
Lastly, it is crucial for all athletes to take breaks both physically and mentally and engage in interests outside of the sport. At times, one may feel pressure or psychological strain causing stress or burnout. In order to combat this and reduce fatigue, having a focus on maintaining a healthy life balance, taking a mental break from sport, and taking a physical break from physical activity is most important. Our mental and physical health are equally important components of overall health.