As you get ready for the start of a new school year, we want to review some pointers to help you have a safe and successful return to fall athletics.
First, schedule a preparticipation physical with your child’s primary care provider. The preparticipation physical is an opportunity for your provider to evaluate your child for conditions that may put her or him at risk of injury when s/he returns to school. Topics that are reviewed aren’t necessarily a routine part of the annual wellness visit. Let your child’s provider know at the beginning of the visit that s/he participates in organized sports so you can discuss the appropriate screening questions.
At the beginning of the school year, athletes are at risk of injury due to insufficient preseason conditioning and hotter temperatures when they first return to practices. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) have guidelines for preseason practices that aim to minimize the risk of heat injury and illness. Your child should be sure to come to the first preseason practice with some baseline conditioning. We recommend a progressive conditioning plan for at least four weeks prior to the start of practices. Your coach and athletic trainer should also plan practices to increase in intensity over the first two weeks of preseason. The first three days of practice should be single sessions only. It’s important to have at least one in seven days be a full rest day without any athletic conditioning or coaching.
Once double sessions start, they should always be spaced at least three hours apart, and you should avoid two consecutive days of double sessions in the first two weeks of practice. Following these guidelines will help avoid heat illness.
The importance of hydration
Appropriate hydration and nutrition are central to successful sports participation. Each athlete has different hydration needs based on their sport, the outside temperature and their metabolism. In general, athletes should consume water throughout the day, before, during and after exercise. Most athletes do not need to consume sport drinks if exercising less than one hour. Some endurance athletes find a drink enhanced with carbohydrates helpful for more prolonged events. Be wary of “energy” drinks that may contain large amounts of caffeine.
In general you can use the color of your urine as a guide. The NCAA has a helpful website on heat and hydration where you can find useful tip sheets. More at www.ncaa.org/sport-science-institute/heat-and-hydration.
Protecting your brain
Keeping your brain safe is important. Repeat concussions can lead to various long-term problems, including depression and anxiety, headaches and learning disability. Discuss with your provider if you have had concussions before and review what you should do in case you sustain another concussion. Most concussions heal within two weeks if treated with appropriate rest, but symptoms can linger.
School nurses, athletic trainers, your child’s primary care provider, and if needed, specialists trained in concussion management, such as primary care sports doctors and neurologists, are important contributors to the healthcare team ensuring your child has a safe and expedient return to learning and sports.
Here’s to a good start to your school year, and good luck in your academic and athletic pursuits.
Dr. Naden specializes in sports medicine at The University of Vermont Health Network – CVMC Family Medicine - Waterbury, 130 South Main St. She earned her medical degree from The University of Vermont College of Medicine and completed internship/residency at Greater Lawrence Family Health Center - Family Medicine in Lawrence, Mass. Dr. Naden completed a fellowship in sports medicine at Boston Medical Center.