Saturday, July 7, 2012

4 Tips to Keep Your Teen Athlete Safe and Healthy

Special guest post:
Both my partner and I have had several decades-long careers in construction, and while it’s a rewarding profession, it’s also a dangerous one. Working with risky equipment is only the half of it. The conditions of working outdoors for long periods of time can, in some cases, be fatal. Based on my experiences, I know that many teen athletes often unknowingly expose themselves to the same conditions without having the training and knowledge to deal with such conditions safely. In fact, sometimes even coaches and staff can be oblivious, as noted in this recent Atlanta Journal Constitution article. Nearly all cases cited in the article could have been prevented had both kids and coaches taken more precautions. Here are a few tips for safe practice and play in high school sports:

1.     Make sure your teen stays fully hydrated throughout practice and play.
Of all the commandments of physical activity, this one is by far the most important. So many accidents, emergencies, and fatalities can be avoided by simply staying hydrated throughout strenuous activity. This means taking frequent water breaks, consuming sports drinks or other fluids with electrolytes (like pickle juice), and not consuming too much water in any one sitting.
2.     Talk to coaches and staff about safety guidelines and procedures.
More and more coaches are starting to become cognizant about the dangers associated with too many high-intensity practices. Speak with your teen’s coach about what measures they are taking to ensure your child’s safety. Ask the coach whether CPR-certified staff are in attendance during practices, staff who are also familiar with basic first aid.
3.     If your teen is practicing or working out alone, make sure she stretches adequately beforehand.
Stretching adequately before engaging in any sort of physical activity can be just as important as staying hydrated. Young children, in their enthusiasm for their respective sport or activity, may think this step is unnecessary. However, many injuries, like pulled hamstrings, which have the potential to end your child’s “career” in any sport, can be prevented with adequate stretching. For more information about stretching exercises, check out this webpage.
4.     Instill in your children the idea that excellence is a concept rooted in concentration and balance, not obsession.
Especially in the realm of varsity sports, there’s a culture of obsession that surrounds the kids. They are taught to push themselves as hard as they can. Of course, there’s a lot that’s good about this culture. At the same time, however, there’s a huge difference between practicing hard and practicing smart. Practicing hard can be very inefficient. The culture of obsession should be replaced with a culture of excellence, in which concentrated, focused practice is more important than extreme practice. After all, it yields better results with less effort.

All of this isn’t to say, of course, that high school sports are typically dangerous. I’m certainly not suggesting that you should be frightened. However, as the stories described in the AJC article cited above demonstrate, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Good luck!

A freelance writer with a specialization in all things construction, Kristie Lewis writes about everything from working in the field to choosing the best construction management schools. For more information, contact her at