As students head back to school this week, athletes in fall sports are putting their bodies back in the game after summer break.
“Whether you’ve been active all summer or lying on the beach, you’re probably not ready for the competitive demands of preseason training,” said Stephanie Stefanelli, a certified athletic trainer at the UCHealth SportsMed Clinic that supports to student athletes in Steamboat Springs. School District. “It’s important to consider your approach to this increased energy demand.”
With a list of fall sports that may include football, volleyball, soccer, cross country, cheerleading, tennis or golf, teens and parents should keep safety front and center when student athletes they return to the field, the gym, the track and the field.
Heat, hydration and acclimatization
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heat illness during practice or competition is one of the leading causes of death and disability among US high school athletes.
“The best prevention of heat-related illness is proper hydration and acclimatization,” Stefanelli said.
Early identification of symptoms such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and fatigue lead to higher recovery rates. Stefanelli emphasizes building in water breaks and, if possible, not practicing during the hottest hours of the day.
“Make a hydration plan to focus on drinking water regularly and don’t use thirst as a guide,” she said. “Stay ahead and be ready. If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.”
- Control fluid intake and loss. If possible, weigh yourself before and after practice. For every pound lost, drink 16 to 24 ounces of fluid or take in 12 ounces of fluid for every 30 minutes of exercise.
- Switch to sports drinks if you exercise for more than 60 minutes, and remember that hydration also comes from foods like watermelon, grapefruit, strawberries and cantaloupe.
- Watch for signs of dehydration and a decrease in energy, coordination and performance. If this happens, get in the shade and cool down with towels or ice packs on your neck, armpits, and groin, or soak in an ice bath.
Acclimatization is the body’s ability to adapt to the environment, which in Steamboat means an altitude of 6,732 feet. For those new to town, or those who have been away for the summer, it usually takes seven to 14 days of continuous exposure to adjust. During this period, Stefanelli recommends exercising for 90 minutes to two hours a day, continuously or in stages, with a rest day during this period.
Other prevention tips
Getting enough sleep and proper nutrition are key to staying healthy for sports. The quantity and quality of sleep is critical to performance as well as mental and physical health. Eat healthy snacks and meals, including “recovery foods” consumed 30 minutes after exercise and then a full meal 60 to 90 minutes later. Food can include protein and carbohydrates; Dairy products such as flavored milk, smoothies or yogurt are other options.
“You’re burning a lot of calories and you have to replace them,” Stefanelli said.
“Ask yourself, ‘Am I going into my sport with injuries, whether pre-existing or a new one that happened over the summer?’ If so, you need to manage it properly before you go back there,” Stefanelli said. “Communicate with your coaches and athletic trainer, and modify the activity as needed.”
To avoid injuries like sprains, strains and stress fractures, Stefanelli said she rests one day a week and instead swaps in a low-intensity activity like yoga, swimming or biking. Also, don’t forget strength training, flexibility and stretching, as this allows the muscles to function optimally during activities.
And remember, your muscles aren’t the only part of your body that gets a workout—cardiovascular fitness—how your heart, lungs, and organs use oxygen during exercise—is another. advantage of mixing high and low intensity exercise.
One final reminder: An annual physical is a requirement for participation in all Colorado High School Activities Association sports.
“This is a good time to talk to your primary care provider about any medical conditions or orthopedic concerns you may have,” Stefanelli said.