Baseball season’s winding down – or rather sliding full speed into championships – and rec swimming, water polo and summer sports camps are revving up, and those achy knees, slipping shoulders and jammed fingers just keep going, don’t they? So, here’s a Fab Five list to help keep young athletes healthy and injury-free, with a little help from St. Louis University’s director of athletic training education Tony Breitbach:
1. Doublecheck the equipment. Kids grow fast, so gear that fit perfectly last year may be too small now. “Ill-fitting shoes can be an especially big problem,” says Breitbach. “Last summer’s baseball cleats will likely not be right for this summer.” And protective equipment – cups, helmets, shin guards – must fit properly to protect.
2. Watch the diet – low fat, lean protein and complex carbohydrates – and hydration. Athletes need lots of complex carbs – what Breitbach calls “high-energy foods” – right before and after a game or workout. And water, water, water. “People place way too much emphasis on energy and sports drinks,” he says, “hen good cool water will do just fine. Don’t give him a bottle of water for a long game. A jug would be better.”
3. Keep them well-rested — and not overbooked. “Parents need to be really careful about overscheduling their kids,” he says. “They need as much time as possible between games so their bodies can rest and recover.”
4. Stay physically fit. The more fit someone is, the less likely they are to be injured playing sports, and the best way to keep your kid in shape is to never let him or her get out of shape. Make sure they’re active all year-round, and don’t rely on sports to keep your kid fit. “They need to love the sport,” says Breitbach. “The truth is, lots of sports aren’t conducive to weight loss anyway – in baseball, for instance, there’s a lot of standing around. If your kid needs to lose weight, put him on a healthy diet and join a fitness center where there are personalized fitness programs.”
5. And take care of injuries right away. “Even something as simple as a scrape needs attention,” Breitbach says. “Scrapes need to be cleaned and covered up to avoid infections, such as a staph infection that’s resistant to antibiotics.” Pay attention to scrapes, aches and pains, and if your child has been injured, make sure the play-or-no-play decision is made by your doctor, not the coach.
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