High school athletes can face significant pressure to perform at the highest level possible. To meet those high expectations, they must push their bodies to the limit. Unfortunately, this sometimes results in pushing their bodies past their limits, which results in injuries. To keep your high school athlete healthy, encourage him or her to follow the tips below.
High school student-athletes have extremely busy schedules with practice, games, school, homework, and a number of other activities competing for their time. This level of activity can take a toll on even a young, vibrant person's body and result in fatigue and discomfort. Experts recommend that most teens get 9.25 hours of sleep each night, but many high school students don't even come close to that number; only 15% of teenagers in one study reported sleeping 8.5 hours.
If high school athletes get adequate rest, their brains and bodies can recharge and repair themselves after being pushed hard during the day. High school students should be encouraged to go to bed earlier during the week, since school often starts very early for them.
It's been proven that athletes can benefit from the extra sleep. Basketball players at Stanford University who slept an extra 2 hours each night increased their speed by 5% and increased their free throw percentage by 9%.
More and more high school athletes are focusing just on one sport to increase the chances of getting a scholarship or perhaps even playing professionally. While this focus on developing sport-specific skills can result in better performance at times, it can also lead to overuse injuries. Young baseball players, for example, are experiencing more elbow pain because they are throwing more balls during the year. In fact, as many as 40% of young players report feeling elbow pain.
Instead of playing one sport throughout the year with school teams, club teams, and private training sessions, high school athletes should cross-train. Cross-training in different activities in the off-season can improve overall coordination, balance, agility, and strength. Most importantly, many different types of muscles will be strengthened rather than just sport-specific muscles. Improving an overall fitness level can greatly reduce the risk of injury in athletes and give some muscles a chance to rest.
Seek professional help for recurring pain
Recurring pain can indicate dangerous problems with muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons. If this pain is ignored, things could break or pop, sidelining the athlete for the entire season. Instead of "playing through the pain", athletes should approach their coaches and parents to discuss possible treatments.
Physical therapists can recommend different types of stretches and strength training exercises that benefit more vulnerable areas of the body, and chiropractors can address any alignment issues in the body that could be affecting movement and comfort level. In fact, chiropractors (such as Dr. Paul Lyons) certified through the American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians are specially qualified to deal with sports related ailments and can tailor a treatment program to match an athlete's specific needs. For instance, hockey players and runners put their bodies through different stresses, so they may need different treatments to address sport-specific discomfort.
It's important to encourage high school athletes to push themselves and work hard, but this focus on their sport has to be balanced with rest and cross-training. In addition, sometimes athletes need professional help to improve their performance. These extra investments outside of practice can really make a big difference in terms of game-time performance.