Whether its soccer, football, cross country or any other fall sport that kicks off as the calendar turns to September, it’s important to recognize that your body is going to experience new stresses from practice, training and competitions that you may not have experienced during your summer break. The fall is a common time of year for young athletes to experience overtraining injuries for a variety of factors. Some athletes training schedules over the summer may have been interrupted due to camps, family vacations or other reasons. Maybe you have been playing a summer sport like baseball and now you are transitioning back to football (quite different demands placed on the body between these two sports). Even athletes who trained regularly over the summer are at risk because training intensity during formal practices tends to increase beyond our own off season training programs.
So here are 3 important things to remember during your fall sports season.
1. Listen to your body
Your body gives you feedback on a regular basis. Muscle stiffness and mild soreness are common following the start of a new or more intense training program. This muscle soreness should not persist for long and if it does, or if you are dealing with pain vs. soreness these are common warning signs that you might be overdoing it. Perhaps one of the biggest warning signs for overtraining is persistent fatigue. No, not feeling out of being tired after a hard drill, or series of wind sprints, but both mental and physical fatigue that starts to interfere with daily activities, school work and practice. Make sure you listen to the warning signs that you might be overtraining your body, and make adjustments in your training program before minor problems become more serious.
2. Proper nutrition is king
Making sure you are getting enough calories and nutrients throughout the day is extremely important to keep your body fueled and ready to handle the rigors of the day. Getting back into the routine of a school day can sometimes interfere with athletes getting the nutrition they need. Nutritional needs will vary depending on your sport, body type, and plenty of other factors, so there is no one size fits all diet plan. Simple easy advice to follow is to make sure you eat breakfast every morning (a common meal skipped by high school students so they can sneak in an extra 15 minutes of sleep), eat lunch and don’t forget to bring snacks and water to have available throughout the day. Snacks can be something as simple as fruit, granola bar, yogurt, peanut butter or anything else that is nutrient dense. Snacks like potato chips, cookies, cakes and soda are not the best choices because they pack a lot of calories without providing much to help provide the body the fuel it needs to get through the day. Staying hydrated can also be a tough task, but is extremely important. This doesn’t mean you have to carry around a gallon jug of water and drink 2-3 of them per day, but bringing a simple water bottle that you can fill up easily in a water fountain to drink throughout the day is a great way to ensure you are getting enough water.
3. Don’t wait too long to get help
If you are having pain, especially symptoms of an injury you’ve previously had, don’t wait until the end of the season to ask for help. Some of these problems can be corrected fairly quickly without having to miss too much time. If you do need to sit out for a short period of time due to injury, it’s better to only miss a short period of time at the beginning of the season vs trying to compete or play through an injury early on, and then have the injury become more serious causing you to miss a larger portion of your season.
If you have questions about injury prevention, or want to come in for our free fall mobility screenings
, email or call us at (919) 678-8828.
About the author:
Dr. Kevin Prue PT, DPT, CSCS is a graduate of Duke University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program. He is the president and director of Prue Physical Therapy & Sports Performance (www.pruept.com) located in Cary NC. He specializes sports and orthopedic physical therapy, sports performance training and injury prevention for youth and recreational athletes.