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PREVENT

Tips for teen athletes returning to fall sports

Do you have a teenager preparing to participate in a fall sport? For most athletes the goal is to play at peak performance and remain injury-free. To avoid injury, your teen should begin preparing for the competition in the weeks leading up to the start of the season. 

Advice for the athlete

  • Ideally, you have been keeping active this summer. By staying in shape you'll have an easier return to your sport. Even better is if you've spent the summer participating in a variety of sports and activities. Studies show that engaging in multiple activities helps you perform better at your chosen sport, plus helps you avoid burnout.
  • Create a written training plan and log your workouts. You're more likely to stick with the plan if you log your efforts. Set specific goals but make them realistic.
  • Attend your school's pre-season conditioning program if one is offered. If they don't offer one, connect with your team and organize some informal practice sessions. It's more fun than working out alone and helps forge bonds with your teammates.
  • Many schools have a certified athletic trainer on staff. He or she can guide you on specific skills and exercises that will be helpful in getting ready for the fall season.
  • Classic "static" stretching does little to prevent injury. Instead, spend time doing dynamic stretching after a light warm up. Dynamic stretching, which uses momentum and active muscular effort, has been found to be more effective at reducing muscle stiffness.
  • Don't jump into an intense, 100 percent effort workout right away—start slowly if you haven't worked out for a while. When you're up and running, take off at least two days per week from a single sport and one day a week from all sports to allow your body a chance to rest and rebuild. Staying fresh helps you continue to perform your best, even if the sports "season" never really ends.
  • Team tryouts are mentally and physically challenging. When in training, pay attention to how much sleep you're getting and maintain proper nutrition and hydration. Feeling your best will allow you to try out with confidence.

Advice for parents

  • Make sure your student is up to date with their pre-participation physical. This is where they are screened for injuries, heart conditions, asthma and other conditions. Sometimes it's the only time kids this age see a health care provider, so consider seeing a physician who can talk with your teenager about all aspects of being healthy. It's a good, safe, confidential environment for teens to ask questions about emotions, drug use, sexuality and other topics.
  • Think about having your athlete complete a concussion screening test before the season starts. This simple test won't prevent a concussion, but should your athlete get an injury it will help your health care provider decide how severe the injury is, and whether your child is ready to return to play.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

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