By Jeremy Smoot, CPT, GPTS
Spring sports are in full swing, providing ample opportunities for children to improve physical fitness and learn the value of teamwork while having fun. However, because young athletes are still growing, they are at a greater risk for injury than adults.
The good news is that many youth sports injuries can be prevented. Whether it’s baseball, softball, tennis, lacrosse or track and field, young athletes have three simple ways to stay safe.
Drink an adequate amount of water
Hydration is associated with energy levels, physical endurance and focus. While kids will tend to put all their focus on the sport itself, they must take time to drink before, during and after the game is finished. Hydration is especially critical when the weather warms up to prevent heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Take time to perform a dynamic warmup before each sporting event
Before diving into the sport, your child needs to complete a proper warm-up, which prepares the body to generally loosen up as it increases blood flow to your muscles.
The warmup should comprise dynamic stretches, which are active movements where joints and muscles go through a full range of motion. During a dynamic warmup, body temperature will rise, thus increasing the oxygen and blood flow. It’s also the only way to ensure that muscles and joints are properly stretched before intense activity.
A good dynamic warmup routine should last five to 15 minutes. Discover some exercise options below. Each move should last about 30 to 60 seconds:
- Arm circles.
- Lunge to twist.
- Knee huggers.
- Leg swings.
- Jumping jacks.
- Sprint forward and backward.
- Side-to-side shuffles.
Take time after the sporting event to properly cool down
Before rushing off the field for the locker room, your child needs to complete a proper cool down. Doing so allows the heart rate to gradually transition to a near resting state, while body temperature decreases. Stretching muscles while they are warm also reduces the chance of muscles stiffness by reducing lactic acid buildup.
The cool down should last five to 15 minutes. Discover some stretching options below. Each move should last about 30 seconds:
- Cross-body stretch.
- Over-the-shoulder stretch.
- Forearm stretch.
- Knee to chest.
- Quad stretch.
- Hamstring stretch.
- Groin stretch.
- Straddle stretch.
Staying hydrated and conducting these dynamic warmup and cool-down exercises will help improve athletic performance and best protect your child from developing injuries. It’s also important to wear appropriate protective gear, eat a well-balanced diet and rest between practices and events. Here’s to a safe and winning season ahead!
Jeremy Smoot is Senior Fitness Training Support Manager with PF Growth Partners, LLC, which owns and operates Planet Fitness health clubs in Maryland, the District of Columbia, Tennessee, Florida and Washington state. For more information, visit www.PlanetFitness.com or follow @Planet Fitness on Facebook and Twitter.