With school now back is session, many fall sports have already commenced. At this time, football players are already practicing in pads and have had their first scrimmages, and volleyball players have now participated in multiple games and tournaments. This is not even to mention collegiate soccer practices and club games.
This time of year brings with it some of our favorite sports, but also some of the toughest conditions for athletes to stay healthy. We have compiled several recommendations to help maintain the health of student athletes and keep them on the field or court this season.
Although football players seem the most susceptible to heat conditions like heat exhaustion and heat stroke, the August and September forecasts in Austin affect all athletes. In hot and humid weather, the ability of the body to cool itself through the evaporation of sweat decreases. It is imperative that all athletes have easy access to fluids and electrolyte supplementation in order to stay hydrated. Early signs of dehydration are:
- Muscle cramps
- Dizziness and fatigue
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), athletes should be consuming water or sport beverage 4 hours before, during, and after exercise. Prior to a workout, you should drink 2-3 mL of water of sport drink for every pound an athlete weights. As much fluid as possible should be consumed during the workout so that no more than 2% of a person’s body weight is lost. It is also recommended by ACSM that after a workout, an athlete should drink 16-24 oz. for every pound of body weight lost during that workout.
Warm Up and Cool Down
Although it is hot outside and many athletes are already sweating before they’ve even put on their practice gear, this does not mean the body is ready to jump right into sport specific movements. Adequate warm up has been shown to improve performance outcomes and decrease incidence of injury. Most of us are in the habit of circling up and quickly running through stretches to “warm-up”, usually followed by jumping jacks spelling out the school’s mascot. This form of warm-up, passive stretching in particular, has been shown to decrease power output. Athletes should perform an active-warm up of dynamic movements to increase blood flow and heart rate and prepare the body to move through sport specific movements. This includes easy jogging and agility type exercises. Save the passive stretches for the post workout cool down. When the body has just completed a workout and is still warm, passive stretches become beneficial in maintaining myofascial and joint flexibility. Try to hold these stretches for 15 seconds, anything shorter has been shown to not result in full relaxation and elongation of tissue. Foam rolling or more direct myofascial release with trigger point balls can also be beneficial at this time.
Remember the Core
We have all heard of the importance of maintaining a strong core. Without strength centrally, we cannot expect athletes to be strong further down the chain. Transverse Abdominal training aids in not just good core strength but also improves biomechanics and muscle efficiency.
But let’s not forget about two other key “core” areas of the body: the shoulder blade and hip. Think of the shoulder blade as the core of the arm and the hip as the core of the leg. Without strength and stabilization at these points, injury further down the kinetic chain is more likely. It is common for rotator cuff, labral, and elbow injuries to occur in overhead athletes when the shoulder blade is weak and unstable. Also, there is a high correlation between ACL, MCL and patellar injuries with weak gluteal and hip muscles. Keeping these areas strong will improve performance and decrease risk of injury in athletes.
Austin Sports Medicine looks forward to watching the fall athletes in the area compete this season. Stay well hydrated, ensure adequate warm-up and cool-down, and maintain good central strength to stay healthy and competing at you very best.