Helping Young Athletes Stay Healthy All Season Long

Nutrition, training, and protective gear provide the baseline of health for anyone involved in sports. For young athletes, the thrill of participation in their chosen sports may be more exciting than eating vegetables or stretching their hamstrings, but these support activities remain important, particularly when they’re facing the rigors of multiple games throughout a long season. 

Keeping your young athlete healthy isn’t difficult, particularly when aided by their youthful enthusiasm. Whether your child plays competitively or just for fun, you can help them play their best while staying safe. The sports injuries specialists at Southern Westchester Orthopedics & Sports Medicine offer these suggestions to keep your young athlete in the game and healthy all season long. 

The transition from play to game

Young athletes often get their start in casual sandlot games, organized spontaneously and played haphazardly. Games end as randomly as they begin — victims of shifting focus, the end of recess, or perhaps because dinner is ready. 

Organized sports become the logical progression as games become more structured and formal. The new norm may be nine innings, four quarters, or three periods. It’s at this point that sport puts demands on your child’s body that exceed those that they generally encounter during play. 

Game shape

Getting in shape might seem an odd notion for a young athlete who shows boundless energy throughout the day. During casual play, they can simply sit out when they’re tired. The structure of organized sport requires discipline, and that means preparing their growing bodies for exertion of a less spontaneous nature. 

Stretches prevent in-game damage by ensuring joints and muscles have the extra range that the heat of competition may demand. Strength building might depend on the sports in question as well as the age of your child. Exercises like weight lifting and resistance training become more prominent in the teen years. The need for endurance training becomes important as the length of games and seasons increase. 

Talk to your child’s coaches and trainers for guidance in developing the appropriate training regimen for their sport and performance level. 

Good nutrition

Generally, kids eat the foods that their bodies need to provide energy for the games and to recuperate after exertion. Calcium keeps bones strong, and it’s readily available in dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese as well as leafy green vegetables. Iron-rich diets provide oxygen capacity in the blood. Animal proteins, leafy greens, and whole grains ensure a rich supply of iron.

Whole grain carbohydrates provide the fuel for hard-working bodies. Fresh fruits and vegetables are other excellent sources of energy. Look to lean proteins for body repairs and building muscle. 

Hydration needs change with game length and environmental conditions. Make water consumption a habit, because the thirst urge may not be enough to ward off dehydration. 

The right equipment

For sports like football or ice hockey, it’s vital to equip your young athlete with properly fitted protective equipment. Other sports may require less gear, but it’s still important to match your kid’s footwear to their activity for prevention of foot and ankle injuries. It’s also important to monitor shoe wear throughout the season. 

Establishing a pattern of healthy activity in your child’s life adds years of enjoyment and fitness to their lives. Keeping them safe and healthy provides the positive reinforcement they need to stay involved.

When sports injuries occur, there’s a location of Southern Westchester Orthopedics & Sports Medicine near you. Call or click today to request an appointment.

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