As of writing, school just got out. So why are we talking back to school already? Because like it or not, school sports are a serious deal! Practices start soon, and training has already begun. Make sure you and your athletes are prepared for the season by paying attention to individual needs of each sport, proper recovery, and if needed – proper support from equipment.
Common High School Sports Injuries
According to experts, ankle sprains are the most common high school sport injury. Pretty much every sport is susceptible to causing ankle and foot injuries, so we want to make sure we are protecting this vital joint, and keeping the athlete on the field or court!
When we look at the anatomy and physiology of the body, the ankle is a very mobile joint. It can flex, extend, invert, evert, and rotate. W e want to make sure we keep it this way! One of the most common areas for disfunction in the ankle is the lack of proper dorsiflexion. Believe it or not, not having the proper ankle range of motion can affect everything from your knees to your lower back – yes, all because of your ankle!
One of my favorite stretches to work every single day for the ankles is the combat stretch – watch it here.
Through proper mobility, the ankle can take on some pretty powerful forces. Aside from keeping it mobile, we also want to keep the muscles around it strong.
Focusing on the calf muscles and larger muscles of the upper leg (quads, hamstrings and glutes) should be part of any serious athletes strength training regimen.
I recommend working the big toe calf raise as a warmup, along with anterior tibialis raises to work directly around the ankle. For upper leg strength, it comes down to your standard lunges, squats and deadlifts.
If you do injure your ankle – this is a time when you should help stabilize it more to help things settle back into place. This is where a quality ankle brace makes sense. As previously stated, the ankle is a very mobile joint – we want to keep it mobile! But when acute injury happens, adding stability during the recovery phase is key, and a little extra protection with a soft sleeve after it heals is okay.
The second most common injury, or I should say injuries – is overuse injuries.
This is a very important topic for all high school athletes and their parents. The body of a high schooler is often still changing. Growth plates shifting, hormones raging and bodies growing like weeds in the early spring.
Overuse injuries are becoming more and more common due to the pressures placed on kids to do more in sports. Some sports are played year-round, nonstop! Then you have special camps, training sessions, and skills practices. If you overwork the same movement patterns over and over, the risk for injury increases.
But kids don’t want to cut back on their sport, or can’t…I understand. So then we need to make sure they are doing what they can to avoid overuse injury, and the number one way to do this is recovery.
The 3R’s of Recovery
Are you go-go-go 24/7, or are you taking a day off to rest? This doesn’t need to mean laying on the couch all day, but rather, just not going 100 mph in the gym or on the field. Balance your high intensity work with some low intensity work.
Also known as SLEEP! Too many people burn the candle at both ends – train/workout hard and sleep like garbage. Sleep is the BEST form of recovery you can have. 8 hours for high schoolers is a MUST. Put the phone away early, get off the video games, and unwind at least an hour before bed. Sleep is when your body has the best opportunity to repair itself.
Are you eating properly? Too many young athletes eat like you’d expect a 15 year old to eat…junk, garbage, and unbalanced. If you want to perform like a high caliber athlete, you need to eat like one. Starting with the building block of all tissue – protein. Getting enough protein at each meal is key. This differs per individual, but the latest recommendation comes in at about .8 to 1.0g/pound of bodyweight for active high schoolers. Second is carbs. As an athlete, carbs are your friend and primary fuel source – so load up!
Some injuries are inevitable, but if you or your child are neglecting the 3R’s of recovery, you are just asking for something to happen. Rest up when you can, recover wisely, and refuel like a pro – and this will have you spending more time on the field and less time on the training table.