There’s nothing like the rush of running onto a high school football field on a Friday night, or suiting up for a wrestling match or volleyball game. And we all know it’s healthy, both mentally and physically, for teens to compete athletically.RSC blog1

But it’s important to match enthusiasm with common sense when it comes to sports. If you are a fall sports participant and you didn’t stay in shape over summer, you have already paid the price with pain and sore muscles as you tried to turn into an athlete instantly. We can’t change that but here are some things you can do to avoid aches, fatigue and serious injury during the season.Don’t skip the warm-up, ever! Include jogging and movement besides stretching your upper and lower back, hamstrings and quadriceps. Practice doing what you do as you play, such as spiking volleyball or catching a football.

Don’t hurt yourself with faulty techniques. Listen to your coaches about the best way to move your body, even if it initially feels uncomfortable. When running, for example, lead with your chest and try to limit up-and-down motion. Keep your head up, especially when making a tackle in football. You’ll avoid penalties and concussions. And soccer players, when “heading the ball,” try not to move your head and neck, instead using your legs to push your body forward.

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Make strength training a part of your workout routine. Target the back muscles, upper and lower abdominal muscles, and the obliques. This will not only make you a better athlete, it will also have your mother complimenting you on your posture.

Focus on cardio strength, too. It will give you more endurance and take some of the stress off your spine. Get on the treadmill, an exercise bike or an elliptical trainer. Better yet, go outdoors and run. You’ll get fresh air, too.

Take a rest here and there. No matter how much you want to be a star athlete, your body needs a break now and then. Overdoing it has led to injury for more than one young athlete.

Use the right equipment. Cross country runners, for example, should wear good athletic shoes to minimize the impact of running on their spines and reduce the risk of spinal fractures. The same is true in volleyball and soccer. Get shoes that provide stability and support. And football players, never go on the field unless your helmet and other gear fits properly and is not damaged.

Keep your body fueled with nutritious food and lots of healthy liquids. Start drinking water two hours before each competition.

Last but not least, get proper treatment if you are injured. Even if you think it’s minor, have a medical professional look at your injury. That way, it can be treated easily if it is indeed minor, or you can deal with it a more serious problem. Report any pain, no matter how small it seems. Be especially careful of back pain and collisions involving your head. We’ve all heard, from the NFL on down, about the dangers of ignoring concussions. Be aware that not all symptoms appear immediately. If you develop headaches the day after a game or a meet, tell someone.

Written by: Kim Alexander  ATC, PT, MPTKim Rockford Spine Center Bfit Teens
                      Rockford Spine Center