Many adolescent sports injuries happen at the start of the season. This is often the result of doing "too much, too soon, too fast" or in other words, not being properly prepared. The following guidelines can help prevent most injuries throughout the year.

Six Keys of Injury Prevention:

  1. Practice "pre-habilitation" instead of rehabilitating injuries: Restoring injured parts to normal function—prevent injuries by strengthening at risk muscle groups. If you participate in a sport that demands the same movement over and over (such as swimming, tennis, or pitching a ball), talk to your coach several months before your sports season to devise a strengthening program for these specific muscle groups.
  2. Follow the 10% rule: Slowly increase your training load or mileage at the start of the season. Tendonitis, stress fractures, and most other injuries may result from a sudden increase in training load or stress. Do not increase the intensity or volume of your training by more than 10% per week. For example, runners who run an average of 20 miles a week should increase that to no more than 22 miles the following week, then to about 24.5 miles the following week. And so on. Be smart, and increase slowly! Your body adapts to the stress much better that way!
  3. Stay active all year long: Even if you participate in only one competitive sport, you should stay physically active throughout the year. Running, biking, swimming, fitness training and other activities are excellent ways to maintain conditioning and avoid the need to play "catch-up" when your sport season begins.
  4. Learn to warm up and cool down: Prevent pulled muscles by walking briskly or jogging for 5 minutes and then stretching for 10 to 15 minutes before practices and games. Following the same jogging and stretching routine after activity can decrease muscle soreness. If you do experience any soreness, icing for 15 minutes after your cool down can help with early inflammation.
  5. Prevent dehydration: Dehydration is simply loss of water from the body and can result from sweating during athletic activities, especially in hot weather. It can lead to dangerous heat illness. To prevent dehydration, drink water before, during, and after all practices and games. Cool water is best because it is more rapidly absorbed from the stomach. A good guide is as follows:
    • Drink 16 oz of water 30 to 60 minutes before activity.
    • Drink 4 to 8 oz of water every 15 to 30 minutes during activity.
    • Drink 16 oz of water for every 1 lb of weight lost after activity. (weighing yourself before and after activity during hot weather workout programs really helps to maintain hydration).
    • Sports drinks or electrolyte replacement supplements such as Gatorade and PowerAde are only really needed for very intense activity lasting longer than 90 minutes.
  6. Don't skimp on nutrition: A good diet is essential to peak athletic performance. It helps maintain strong bones, avoid anemia, and build muscle. Make sure that you have a good balance of carbohydrates, protein and fats. Eating a high protein meal like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a protein shake within 30 minutes after exercise improves your muscle building. Remember that the daily protein intake recommendation for athletes is 2g/kg/day as compared to non-athletes of 0.8g/kg/day.

Most athletic injuries can be prevented, especially in the adolescent competitive sports environment. Avoiding too much, too soon, too fast repetitive stress injuries by following these helpful tips!