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Keeping Your Athlete Healthy During a Long Season
By Dr. Andrew Young
Have you ever seen an article about how to “bullet-proof” your back, shoulder, or knee?
The internet is littered with such articles, and I am here to tell you that almost all of them are over-simplifying the process to reduce your risk of injury. The reality of injury risk reduction is that it is not easily achieved. The more the medical literature investigates the problem of injury risk, the more we are finding that there are a whole host of factors that should be addressed.
Does that opening paragraph leave you feeling discouraged? Don’t be! The good news here is that even the smallest lifestyle changes can impact you or your athletes’ overall risk profile. If you can’t find a way to add more exercise to your routine, drink more water! If getting an extra hour of sleep seems impossible, try adding an additional serving of vegetables to your diet each day! Even small changes can add up over time.
Taking all of the previous information into account, I have compiled a list of five ways you can improve overall health and reduce your risk of injury. My challenge to you is to pick just one or two categories for improvement and stick with it!
- Sleep – It is recommended that kids aged 13-18 years of age get 8-10 hours of sleep per night (or more in some cases). Adults 18 years of age or older require 7-9 hours of sleep per night to function at the highest level. Sleep is essential to the processing of memories, concentration, and thinking clearly.
- Eat – Eating a well-balanced diet is important for rejuvenating our bodies after injury, exercise, or competition. If you are interested in the specifics of what a healthy diet looks like for your or your athlete, talk to your doctor or a nutritionist.
- Hydrate – Drinking enough water is key to overall injury risk reduction. Having a proper fluid balance improves circulation, regulates body temperature, and improves brain function just to name a few. If you are interested to learn specifics about how much water you should consume, follow this link to an article from the Cleveland Clinic.
- Exercise – It has been said that exercise is the closest thing to a wonder drug that we have, so why not use this amazing property for injury risk reduction? Exercise does a whole host of things at the physiological level to facilitate growth, adaptation, and healing. I see it every day in my practice as a physical therapist! If you are in the middle of a busy sports season, I would suggest including some light cardio on off days (and you should have some “off” days here and there) to get the blood pumping and to prime your body for recovery. On the other end of the spectrum, if you don’t have a regular exercise routine I would highly suggest incorporating physical activity into your daily routine.
- Stress Management – An often overlooked aspect of our well-being is stress management. There are many resources out there, including skilled therapists, who do amazing work helping athletes process and cope with the stresses of sport and life. In addition, there are many excellent apps for your phone that are free and allow you to improve your mental health from the comfort of home. I suggest trying the “Headspace” and “Calm” apps to get started.
If you have any questions regarding your health or the health of your athlete, please don’t hesitate to call us at i’move to claim a free 30-minute assessment with one of our physical therapists at any of our locations. This entire time will be spent addressing any questions or injuries you may have, as well as advice on how to start healing!
To schedule your free assessment call 616.847.1280 ext. 0.
Dr. Andrew Young is a Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopedic Physical Therapy who works at the i’move MSA Fieldhouse location.