It is officially fall and football season across the state of Maine. High school and college teams are back on the gridiron, and for the first time ever I was able to watch my Philadelphia Eagles raise a Super Bowl banner to kick off the NFL season (sorry, Patriots fans).
As student-athletes hit the field it’s important to talk about injury prevention. This starts even before the first play of the year. One of the best ways to prevent an early-season injury is to stay fit during the off season. Not only will this keep you healthy, but it will be beneficial to your athletic ability and can help separate yourself from the competition. I’ve seen a greater emphasis on cross-training in younger athletes which helps with the anticipation of jumping from one season to the next.
I can’t stress enough the importance of warming up before a game or practice. Even before you begin to stretch, light warm-up routines will help get your muscles ready to be stretched and cut back on the chances of suffering a strain. A lot of players are eager to get out on the field for the first game and make their first catch or first tackle of the year, the excitement makes it easy to forget about the need for a proper warm-up.
There is a significant difference between feeling sore from a workout or game action and being injured. If you’re having pain in a specific area or see swelling, especially around joints, that is something that would call for an acute evaluation from an orthopaedic physician or a sports medicine physician. If you haven’t done certain exercises or activities in a while, you could come across soreness when getting back to lifting weights or running. This is where cross-training can also benefit your body so that you are not working the same isolated muscle group. Keep open lines of communication with your team trainer if something is bothering you so they can provide you with specific training tips or exercises to avoid developing secondary injuries.
Be sure to get plenty of rest the night before a game and after taking part in any physical activity to allow your muscles to heal. Keep an eye on your nutrition to ensure your muscles are getting the necessary nutrients for adequate recovery and of course, stay hydrated, especially as these hot summer days slowly come to a close.
Don’t over-do it during the season, keep a good balance and remember that student-athletes have the enjoyment of playing a sport without excessively consuming practices and games. Keep your physical and mental health in mind during the season.
Follow these tips and you are on your way to a healthy and happy fall sports season. Good luck!