In today’s age of health and fitness, more and more kids are involved in sporting activities. Although being part of a football, soccer, or little league team is an important rite of passage for many kids, parents, and their children could be overlooking the importance of proper nutrition and body conditioning needed for preventing injuries, on and off the playing field.
There are structural and physical developmental tissues that need to be taken into consideration before children undertake certain sports. The best advice for parents who have young athletes in the family is to help them prepare their bodies and to learn to protect themselves from sports-related injuries before they happen.
“Proper warm up and stretching are essential for kids involved in sports, but many kids learn improper stretching techniques, making them more susceptible to injury,” says Dr. Steve Horwitz (Chiropractic Physician). “Parents need to work with their kids and make sure they receive the proper sports training. Young athletes should begin with a slow jog to warm up the legs and arms and stretch all the major muscle groups,” says Dr, Horwitz. “Kids involved in football, baseball, gymnastics, and swimming should develop a routine that includes strengthening exercises for the abdomen, the low-back muscles, arms and shoulders.”
Proper nutrition and hydration are also extremely vital. A student athlete may need to drink eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of water for proper absorption. Breakfast should be the most important meal of the day.
Young athletes today often think they are invincible. The following tips can help ensure your child does not miss a step when it comes to proper fitness, stretching, training, and rest that the body needs to engage in sporting activities.
Encourage your child to:
- Eat healthy meals. Make sure your young athlete is eating a well-balanced diet and does 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.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Certain sports, such as gymnastics, wrestling, and figure skating, require your young athlete to follow strict dietary rules. Be sure your child does not feel pressured into being too thin and that he/she understands proper nutrition and caloric intake is needed for optimal performance and endurance.
- Drink water. 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.
- Drink milk. Make sure your child has enough calcium included in his/her diet. ACA recommends 1 percent or skim milk for children over 2 years old rather than whole milk because of its high fat content. The calcium in milk is essential for healthy bones and reduces the risk of joint and muscle related injuries.
- Avoid sugar-loaded, caffeinated and carbonated drinks. Sports drinks are a good source of replenishment for those kids engaged in long-duration sports, such as track and field.
- Follow a warm-up routine. Be sure your child or his/her coach includes a warm-up and stretching session before every practice, game or meet. A slow jog, jumping rope and/or lifting small weights reduces the risk of torn or ripped muscles. Flexibility becomes a preventive key when pushing to score that extra goal or make that critical play.
- Avoid trendy supplements. Kids under the age of 18 should avoid the use of performance-enhanced supplements, such as creatine or other supplement pills.
- Get plenty of rest. Eight hours of sleep is ideal for the young athlete. Lack of sleep and rest can catch up with the athlete and decrease performance. Sluggishness, irritability and loss of interest could indicate that your child is fatigued.
Chiropractic Care Can Help . . . Doctors of chiropractic are trained and licensed to treat the entire neuormusculoskeletal system and can provide advice on sports training, nutrition, and injury prevention to young athletes.