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Seasonal Tips: Enjoying Youth Sports

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Preventing injuries is a growing area of concern for physicians specializing in sports medicine management of young athletes. Physical conditioning including aerobic training and muscle strengthening is different for the skeletally immature child athlete than for adult or older teen sports participant.

Weight training should stress lightweight free weights rather than more strenuous machines designed for adult users. Gradual, slow increases in exercise targets or goals can reduce injury risks.

Pain is common in joints undergoing rapid growth and care must be taken to limit stresses through greater emphasis on flexibility and range of motion exercises rather than strenuous resistance training. Alternate day regimens for training specific muscle groups and resting others must be encouraged to reduce injury. Training throughout the year rather than just seasonal workouts must be encouraged.

Tips for Enjoying Youth Sports:
1.Participate at a level appropriate for age, maturity, size and skill development.
2.Insist on qualified adult supervision for training, practice and actual competition.
3.Let children play as children without adult expectations or adult pressures.
4.Utilize specific stretching, conditioning and strengthening exercises chosen for the sport of choice.
5.Always wear properly fitting safety equipment that is in good condition.
6.Be aware of special needs and accommodate them.
7.Warm up before all sports activities.
8.Respect pain warning signs in children by not trying to play through pain.
9.Know safety rules and follow them.
10.Have fun.

Hot or Cold:

Following injury, therapeutic application of ice or a cold pack is usually advised for the first 48-72 hours following injury to limit swelling and reduce pain. An exception is pain from prolonged cold exposure resulting in frostbite. In those situations efforts should be made to warm the affected areas while avoiding excessive rubbing or pressure over the injured, exposed skin. While a warm hot tub might help loosen and stretch tight muscles, one should exercise restraint if there is a history of traumatic injury to a joint which may have an increase in swelling with heat exposure.

Stretching:

Daily stretching is needed to prevent muscle strain and improve flexibility. Specific stretches may be prescribed by your doctor for particular sports and to help participants with physical problems avoid further injury. In general, stretches need to be maintained for at least a count of five or ten at the extreme of the stretched position to obtain maximal benefit. Stretching should include not just the legs but also the arms, neck and back for most athletic activities.

Cardiovascular Fitness:

Physical fitness demands a regular exercise program at least three times a week for around 45 minutes per workout session for conditioning the heart and lungs. Those over 30 or with a history of heart or lung disease in themselves or their family should consult a physician for clearance prior to any vigorous exercise program. Suggested aerobic exercise activities might include low impact swimming, bicycling, cross country skiing, walking and stair climbing. Running requires excellent joints in the hips, knees, ankles and feet. To achieve a training benefit, the selected exercise must allow the participant to achieve and maintain around 70% of the maximal predicted heart rate which should be maintained for about 30 minutes.

Strengthening:

To achieve improved strength, one should exercise the target muscles at least twice a week with a schedule allowing for at least a day or more of recovery time between sessions. Maximal benefit occurs from exercise to the point of fatigue. One may prefer low resistance, high repetition exercise to minimize injury or adopt a high resistance, low repetition regimen to shorten the time required to complete the training program. Creatine and androstendione have not been proven safe and other enhancing agents such as anabolic steroids and growth hormone have known adverse effects on those individuals attempting use of performance altering drugs without medical prescription.

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