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Keep Your Young Athlete Healthy and Fit

Written by Pamela Stone, DC, FICPA   
Wednesday, 01 March 2006 00:00
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It is March, the time of year when your children are starting to play little league baseball, softball, soccer, or some other spring sport. Playing outdoors brings a lot of enjoyment for children and parents, especially after a few months of indoor winter activity. As a result, exercise levels tend to increase and often times, injuries appear. Injuries to children’s spines are not unique to contact sports like football, soccer, or martial arts, though they are also seen in non-contact sports like competitive cheerleading and gymnastics.

As more and more kids are becoming involved in sporting activities, many parents (and their children) could be overlooking the importance of proper nutrition and body conditioning needed for preventing injuries both on and off the playing field. Most sports provide a very positive experience for children, though if not properly prepared, playing any sport can turn into a bad experience.

Keeping your Young Athete Healthy and FitThe best advice for parents who have children involved in athletics is to help them prepare their bodies, and to learn to protect themselves from sports-related injuries before they happen. A proper warm-up exercise and stretching program is essential for youths involved in sports. However, many children learn improper stretching techniques, or do not stretch at all, making them more susceptible to injury. Both parents and coaches need to work with their kids and make sure they receive the proper sports training.

Before participating on any given day, young athletes should begin with a slow jog to warm up, and stretch all the major muscle groups, including the legs, arms, and back. Holding the stretches, rather than bouncing, for 5–10 seconds will gain the most benefit. As children get older, the stretches can be held for longer periods of time and proper weight lifting can be introduced when they become teenagers.

Proper nutrition and hydration are also extremely vital. The requirement of drinking eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of water every day is not only for adults. These days, too many youths drink soda, juice, and milk for hydration, even though water is the best for proper absorption into the body.

Young athletes today often think they are invincible. The following tips can help ensure your child does not miss a beat when it comes to the proper fitness, stretching, training, and rest that the body needs in order to engage in any sporting activity.