Many children have genuine talent and passion for sports and gladly indulge in them at school or outside of it. This hobby has a wide range of benefits for the physical and emotional health of young student-athletes in addition to nurturing a variety of useful skills and attributes that will help them in their future academic and professional careers as well as in other walks of life.
Very often, it stops being a mere hobby and becomes the person’s main occupation, leading to professional sports.
Nevertheless, participating in sports is not just a pleasurable pastime or favorite activity. It also involves a considerable level of risk for the young one.
To start with, any physical activity requires taking appropriate care of the body to stay fit for the kind of sport a child is involved in. But besides that, it’s not a surprise that sports are fraught with injuries of all kinds.
While it is impossible to predict events out of our control that may happen during a game or practice, it is still necessary to apply certain preventive measures to avoid injuries that can be averted by proper care.
Several million student-athletes get into emergency rooms every year with injuries caused either by falls, contact, equipment, and other similar events or by overexertion and overuse. The latter can often be avoided by following some simple recommendations and rules.
Just remember that while it is easy to get help with English writing from third parties, it is the responsibility of coaches, parents, and student-athletes themselves to guard their health and life.
So, here are some useful tips on how to keep student athletes healthy and minimize the possibility of sports’ adverse effects on their physical and emotional wellbeing.
6 useful tips to keep student athletes healthy
1. Mental preparedness
First and foremost, student-athlete must be mentally prepared for the entire process of their sporting activities. Here, the bulk of responsibility rests on coaches and parents, who should hold substantive conversations with their children, explaining the importance of proper behaviors and attitudes.
They should learn to stick to a specific routine that involves proper nutrition and hydration, exercise, rest, and safety measures during practice. Having other responsibilities and activities besides the sport, including school assignments, friends, family, and other social issues, it is easy for them to overwork under this pressure.
Thus, psychological preparedness and responsible treatment of their bodies and abilities are highly important. It is necessary to teach them to pay attention to the slightest warning sign and address it right away to avoid more serious consequences and complications.
Disturbed sleep, difficulties with concentration, self-doubt, good performance in training but failure in competition, and negative talks cannot be neglected.
Besides, children must understand that “playing through pain” will not take them higher in their achievements. On the contrary, it may lead to serious damage, physical and psychological, for the entire of their life.
2. Timely medical examination
A regular medical check is a must not only for athletes but for any person as well. In sports, a lot of programs and competitions demand an obligatory physical examination before participation to see if a participant is fit for it.
However, even without such a specific requirement, it is important that a student athlete undergoes a pre-sport physical and medical evaluation or exam to make sure that they are physically able to practice as well as to detect any underlying asymptomatic conditions that could otherwise go unnoticed.
In case of the slightest abnormality, a student athlete must seek immediate medical help. “No pain, no gain” is not a suitable motto in such cases. Playing through the pain or even a slight departure from the normal functioning may come at a huge cost to the extent of the child’s life.
Thus, to avoid a serious injury or disability that could significantly damage an athlete’s life, medical care must be sought as soon as possible, even in doubtful cases.
3. Nutrition and hydration
Food and water are fundamental items for any human being to maintain the vital capacity of their bodies and minds. Physical activities cause a higher than usual discharge of energy, which requires increased replenishment.
Consequently, appropriate nutrition and hydration are essential for student-athletes to ensure that they get the needed amounts of proper nutrients for the adequate functioning of their bodies and brains.
It is important to devise a properly-balanced diet for each athlete, considering their kind of sport, physique, age, and any possible accompanying attributes.
Generally, all meals should contain sufficient amounts of lean proteins, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and greens to provide the energy necessary to perform at the highest level.
Many sports nutritionists and dietitians recommend eating everything the athlete likes but in moderation and avoiding processed foods. Fats are not bad altogether, but it takes longer to digest them. For this reason, it is better to consume them either early in the morning, long before the practice or competition, or after these events.
Moreover, an athlete should be taught that it is good to fill the body with small portions of proteins and complex carbs in the course of the day, in order not to come for the training session hungry and lacking energy, tired, or sleepy.
They must always have some healthy snacks with them in the form of fruits, nuts, granola bars, peanut butter crackers, or fruit chips to have a palm-size serving between the lessons or on the way to the gym or field.
And there is no need to remind that fast food and snacks high in calories, salts, and sugars are unhealthy for any person, especially an athlete.
Similarly, proper hydration is one of the beauty secrets for anyone who wants to stay healthy and fit. It is especially important for athletes who lose a lot of fluid with sweat during physical activities on the field. Thus, it is necessary to consume a lot of water before, during, and after training sessions and competitions.
Dehydration and heat-related illnesses including heat exhaustion and heatstroke that are characterized by fatigue, fainting, confusion, nausea, or vomiting can cause tiredness, dry mouth, and muscle cramping and lead to serious injuries.
Special attention must be paid during hot seasons and in a hot and humid climate. Besides water, sports drinks are a perfect option to fill the body with the electrolytes necessary for adequate cellular functioning.
Student athletes must understand the importance of warming up before starting any training session, game, or other intensive physical activity. Unprepared muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, and other tissues tend to sprain, tear, dislocate, twitch, and experience other forms of disorders.
Sufficient weight exercises and stretching targeted at different groups of muscles and joints will prepare the body for more serious activities. Similarly, some simple relaxing exercises can help the body to cool down afterward, facilitating its quicker recovery.
5. Consistent cross-training
While some kinds of sports involve different muscles, there are the ones that rely on some specific muscle groups, which means that others can weaken without training. As a result, it is easy to get injured in a simple but sudden and atypical move.
At the same time, if an athlete overspecializes, focusing on some particular exercises, he or she risks getting an injury caused by overstraining of muscles or burnout.
Thus, it would be wise to consider cross-training at least once in a while to maintain general fitness and develop additional useful reflexes and skills that can be of value.
For example, strength training is important for all kinds of athletes, even if their sport does not require this component of physical fitness. Strengthening exercises help to make all the core muscles stronger, reducing the risk of injuries, as well as improving motor skills, and boosting self-esteem.
Similarly, regular stretching adds flexibility and strength to the core, protecting an athlete from muscle strains.
It has already been mentioned that overuse and overstrain are one of the major injury causes. Just like any worker or student needs a vacation to have rest and relax, so does the body needs a break from the constant physical load to refresh and reload.
At the same time, total inactivity may also be detrimental to the bodily systems habitual to regular exercise. Thus, coaches should make sure that the break is not very long.
Instead, it is good to use an off-season to prepare for the next in-season but to train at about half the usual level. This way, muscles, and joints will not overstrain too much, at the same time, being tuned all the time due to moderate load on them.
6. Protective gear
The majority of injuries, including concussions, knocked-out teeth, and sprained limbs, take place during the training practice, not at the competition. And the most typical reason for them is the wrong or damaged equipment or gear used.
To start with, a young student-athlete must be provided with all the necessary protective gear, which is not worn out or poorly fitting. All the items (helmets, mouth guards, goggles, protective knee, elbow pads, etc.) must be made specifically for the sport a child is playing.
Besides, they must be of the proper size, which similarly concerns the footwear and clothes they are practicing in. Majorly, ensuring this is the parents’ responsibility. Athletes should take good care of their sports items and inform parents as soon as they notice any damage or understand that a bigger size is already needed.
Another issue is the equipment and training devices used in the practice field or gym. They all must be in working order and function properly. Here, the responsibility is on the coach to take care of all these issues and renew them whenever necessary.
Take care of your student athletes
While students can get help with their school assignments or other extracurricular activities, taking care of their bodies and maintaining good health and proper fitness for playing favorite sports is their own responsibility.
However, parents, guardians, and coaches, being older, wiser, and more experienced, should act as role models and guides in their endeavors. Do not stay aside from your child’s passion. Take part in what they love and guide them in the right direction to see them healthy, safe, and happy.