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Tips for Teen Athletes

Dr. Sean Lordan

Three Tips for Teen Athletes

During the Central Massachusetts Spring athletic season, we see many young athletes ages 10-18 in our clinic in Sutton Massachusetts. Here are three quick and easy things parents can do now to better prepare them for sports:

  1. Allow your child 8 1/2 to 9 1/4, or more, hours of sleep each night. The National Sleep Foundation indicates that it is healthy to establish a sleep/wake cycle in concert with your child’s body. To accomplish this, choose a bedtime each night, and a time to wake up each morning, in which you strictly adhere. Sleep plays an important role for your child’s muscular and nervous system development as well as in regulation of their metabolism. Inadequate sleep may negatively affect the hypothalamus – a part of the brain associated with hunger and thirst regulation and cues. There is a link between weight gain and sleep deprivation. (And yes, this affects adults too!) During sleep is when children are effectively able to store memories (especially facts and figures) from the day before. Proper sleep is necessary to perform well in school the following day.
  2. Get your child the key macronutrients (in the right amounts) will help them grow and avoid the injuries I see too commonly in my physical therapy clinic. Macronutrients are by definition protein, fat and carbohydrates – the profile of which (by percentage) will vary based on your child’s energy needs. A proper diet will help a student perform better in the classroom because the brain needs carbohydrates and water to perform at its optimal capacity. Many studies show that performance on the field (soccer, field hockey, baseball) decreases when athletes are hungry or dehydrated. According to a 2015 study, the CDC reported most teenagers are mildly dehydrated. Proper hydration for a teenager should be equal to two to three quarts of water a day, or five to eight twelve ounce glasses.
  3. Establish proper strengthening regimens that focus on core strength development and are not hyper-focused on stretching. During teenage years, many injuries come from over-training for one specific sport due to repetitive motion. Over-stretching, which is often prescribed by strength coaches, can unknowingly stress the growth plates at the ankle, knee, hips and low back. Over-stretching causes more injuries than it prevents. A good rule of thumb for stretching is to try the forward bend test. If your child can’t bend over and touch his/her toes in a standing position, then the back of their body is tight. They should be doing calf, hamstring, hip and low back stretches for 30-60 seconds a day for each body part up to 7 days a week. I urge parents to consult with both their pediatrician and local physical therapist prior-to and during spring season to ensure the safety of their young athlete; especially if a sports-related scholarship is on the table.

There you have it! Three tips for parents to guide their children through a successful Spring Sports Season. Want to chat more about your child’s health, click here to contacts us!

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