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Keeping young athletes safe

Kaden Denson dashes down the sideline for a score.

Kaden Denson dashes down the sideline for a score.

Injuries occur all the time in sports and it can cause some parents to have concerns over whether they should even let their children begin playing sports in the first place. These concerns are not unwarranted, but there are many things that can be done on and off the field to help avoid injuries.

“The majority, if not all, sports are good, provided that the child prepares appropriately,” says Dr. Timothy Ray, a member of the American Chiropractic Association’s Council on Sports Injuries and Physical Fitness. “Without proper preparation, playing any sport can turn into a bad experience. There are structural and physical development issues that need to be taken into consideration before children undertake certain sports.”

Local chiropractor Cheryl Blanck, D.C., has several tips to help keep young athletes healthy and fit.

“Wear the proper equipment,” Blanck said. “Certain sports, such as football and hockey, can be dangerous if the equipment is not properly fitted. Make sure all equipment, including helmets, pads and shoes fit your child or adolescent. Talk to your child’s coach or trainer if the equipment is damaged.”

Making sure that young athletes eat properly was another tip that Blanck offered. Young athletes should be eating a well-balanced diet and should not skip meals. Avoid high-fat foods, such as candy bars and fast food. At home, provide fruit rather than cookies and vegetables rather than potato chips, Blanck said.

Hudson Dean goes up for a layup.

Hudson Dean goes up for a layup.

Maintaining a healthy weight is another crucial step, and it’s important that young athletes understand that proper nutrition and caloric intake is needed for optimal performance and endurance.

“Drink water,” Blanck said. “Hydration is a key element to optimal fitness. Teenage athletes should drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Younger athletes should drink five to eight 8-ounce glasses of water.”

Blanck also that milk is very important to young athletes.

“Make sure your child has enough calcium included in his/her diet,” Blanck said. “For children over 2 years of age, ACA recommends 1 percent or skim milk rather than whole milk. Milk is essential for healthy bones and reduces the risk or joint and muscle related injuries.”

Avoiding a sugar overload is another thing the Blanck said was essential to young athletes. Blanck said that sports drinks are a good source of replenishment for those kids engaging in long duration sports, such as track and field.

Before playing or practicing, Blanck said that young athletes should follow a warm-up routine.

“Be sure your child’s coach includes a warm-up and stretching session before every practice, game or meet,” Blanck said. “A slow jog, jumping rope and/or lifting small weights reduces the risk of torn or ripped muscles. Flexibility is key when pushing to score that extra goal or make that critical play.”

Blanck also said that young athletes should take vitamins daily, such as a multi-vitamin or Vitamin C. Vitamin B and amino acids my help reduce the pain from contact sports and Thiamine can help promote healing, Blanck said.  Blanck also said that Vitamin A should be considered to strengthen scar tissue.

“Avoid trendy supplements,” Blanck said. “Kids under the age of 18 should avoid the use of performance-enhancing supplements, such as creatine. Instead, they should as their coach or trainer to include a weekly weight training and body-conditioning sessions in their workout.”

Lastly, Blanck said that getting proper rest is also essential.

“Get plenty of rest,” Blanck said. “Eight hours or sleep is ideal for the young athlete. Lack of sleep and rest can decrease performance. Sluggishness, irritability and loss of interest could indicate that you child is fatigued.”

Not all injuries can be avoided, but there are some that can be prevented just by being informed.