Our kids are going back to school. For some, it’s been almost two years since they have stepped on campus. Back to school also means back to sports. During the pandemic, High Schools and Colleges had to cancel or delay entire seasons. The cancelations played havoc with the traditional recruiting process for colleges and had some devastating impact on athletes' dreams.
Scholarships have been delayed or gone up in smoke. Age and eligibility requirements had to be rethought. And then there is just the heartbreak and disappointment of not being able to complete your senior year of Football, Basketball, La Cross, Baseball, Swim Competition, Soccer, Volleyball, etc.
“The pandemic stopped all of our sports dead in their tracks,” said Jason Luty, Rothman Orthopedics athletic trainer at Lower Merion High School. "We were here one day, and then we were not. We didn't come back until July 1st of last year, and that was in a very limited capacity."
Summer traditionally is the time for high school athletes to work on training and conditioning. Many athletes cut back on training during the lockdown because they were encouraged to socially distance themselves. Let's face it. Our kids spent most of their days indoors and online. That left them in weaker physical shape, raising the risk of safety concerns, including injuries and even cardiac, pulmonary, and hydration issues. Students are coming to school needing a lot more conditioning.
In an article for the Philadelphia Inquirer on High School Students getting injured after lockdown, Naomi Brown, a sports medicine pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said, “We have already seen a huge rise in injury from less activity. t's incredibly important for all of our young athletes to be gradually returning rather than thinking they can go back to the full amount pre-pandemic."
Brown has seen an increase in stress injuries, from stress fractures to excessive irritation and swelling. Shin splints, for example, are a prelude to a stress fracture of the shin. Of the 80 or 90 patients, she saw each week pre-pandemic, she estimates about eight or nine had a bone stress injury. Now it's about 15.
She urges young athletes to start back slowly and increase their intensity gradually, about 10% each week. For someone who has been completely sedentary, start with 15 to 20 minutes of activity daily for the first week, and if you feel OK, increase that by 10% next week. If you feel pain, back down.”
Students are dealing with physical stress on the body and emotional stress as well. Worrying about getting in shape, grades, scholarships, performance, and their uncertain future as Covid continues to make our lives a question mark.
Stress, worry, and anxiety impact your performance. Having a burst of adrenaline might be good for your game day performance, but too much stress and anxiety can actually weaken the body's ability to perform.
In an article on Stress and the Athlete’s Body
They discuss the effects of anxiety and stress on performance. While stressing doesn’t necessarily make you diagnosable, it does mean you’re anxious, probably tired, and possibly less likely to be at your physical best. In addition, we often don’t realize the extent to which everyday stress can compromise performance.
Adam Naylor, a sports psychologist and Boston University professor, says, “There’s a reason you’re exhausted.” Even if you don’t recognize its physical manifestations, your anxiety is burning up energy stores and motivation levels you could be using to train. When your brain detects and responds to a threat, it leads to the release of adrenaline, says psychologist Richard Zinbarg, who heads up Northwestern University’s Anxiety Lab. In the short term, this gives the body a boost of strength and energy. But when it persists, it leaves the body drained. While the exact impact varies from person to person and is difficult to quantify, the effect is major.
“Like a car engine that revs into the red for too long, it will break down over time,” sports psychologist and performance coach Robert Smith says. “Our bodies start to show the wear and tear of chronic stress.”
Naylor recommends doing a “shoulder check” throughout the day. If they’re tense, take a deep breath to release the strain.
Smith suggests deep breathing—inhale slowly through the nose and exhale out through the mouth. This self-conscious breathing will bring you back to the moment.
Stress management is difficult because we live in a fast-paced society, but many coping mechanisms are fairly simple. It’s about “realizing that we have these skills, but aren’t using them when we most need them,” Naylor says. “
Before you start to experience the effects of chronic stress, learn how to take care of your body, and optimize your performance.
According to our own Vince Guaglin, DC
"Much of sports medicine is focused around managing athletic injuries, not preventing them. It is impossible to prevent all injuries as a result of playing sports, but we can minimize athletic injuries due to repetitive training, soft tissue imbalances, and compensatory injuries. Active recovery is the answer, and it should be taken just as seriously as training is by the athlete."
The athlete of the future will participate in a 1:1 ratio of athletic training. For every minute spent contracting the muscle fibers, the athlete will spend equal time relaxing the muscle fibers, thus a 1:1 ratio of training to active recovery. LeBron spends up to four hours on non-game days recovering his body. If a young athlete is spending 10-15 hours a week on training, then an equal proportion of time should be dedicated to the recovery work.
Recovery consists of adequate hydration, nutrition, rest, and sleep. However, active recovery consists of massage, stretching, foam rolling, contrast baths, lasers, compression therapy, yoga, acupuncture, etc., - any modality that will help bring blood and re-oxygenate the tissues. Active recovery therapies should be both self-administered and performed by a competent therapist.”
If you’re unsure how to properly prepare and adequately recover your young athlete, please contact us for more information. Time spent on active recovery is more efficient and effective than recovering after an injury has already happened.
Establish active recovery as part of your/your child’s training early and consistently, it will pay dividends throughout their sports career and beyond. To learn more about protecting your athletes from injury, reach out to our team at Aim Sports Medicine.
The Aim Sports medicine team offers an impressive array of treatment modalities. Known as the top Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy practice in the South Bay, our team includes experienced licensed Physical Therapists, Chiropractors, Acupuncturists, and Massage Therapists. We offer Fascial Stretch Therapy, Deep tissue laser therapy, and personal training.
Now is a great time to discover how working with a Physical Therapist and soft tissue management regiment can improve your athletic recovery and optimize body function.
Here at Aim, our philosophy is to treat the physical condition and not just the symptoms. We are proud to support our patients. Whether you are an aspiring professional athlete or looking to function better and experience ease in your body performance, we can help.
Call today to start your better life and best performance. Set your goals and Aim High!
Aim Sports Medicine (310) 937-2323