- Have your child receive a pre-participation physical – See your pediatrician or sports medicine physician for a physical to make sure your kid is healthy enough to participate in sports. If he/she has any areas of pain, see a physician or physical therapist for evaluation. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
- Encourage warm up before activity – Warming up before activity allows for increased blood flow to muscles, which increases flexibility and strength resulting in decreased likelihood of pulling a muscle. Try a 5-minute warm up consisting of high knees, arm circles, hip circles, heel raises, squats, jumping jacks, toy soldier walks, carioca, side steps, and lunges (30 sec each).
- Allow for proper cool down after activity – Cooling down allows for the heart to gradually return to its resting level. Using the same 5-minute warm up routine in reverse works well. Stretching after activity is recommended and should consist of 30 second holds for 3 repetitions, per muscle group.
- Learn proper form & training habits – Utilize the many professionals available to you to ensure safe exercise and body mechanics. This includes coaches, physicians, physical therapists, and athletic trainers. Most injuries occur due to fatigue combined with poor form. Practice doesnt make perfect…perfect practice makes perfect.
- Increase training gradually – Use the 10% rule. Do not increase weight, repetitions, mileage, or pace by more than 10% per week. This allows ample time for the body to recover.
- Get the right equipment – Make sure shoes fit properly and are designed for the right sport. For example, baseball/softball cleats are not the same as soccer cleats.
- Hydrate properly – Some athletes forget to drink water regularly, especially kids. Dehydration leads to cramping and muscle dysfunction. Drink water every 30 minutes, more on those hot Summer days!
- Rest – The body needs rest. The overwhelming majority of injuries are due to overuse. Allow for adequate recovery time between practices, games, and sports.
- Play multiple sports – There are so many leagues out there with opportunities for kids to play the same sport year-round. This is a recipe for injury. Encourage your kids to play in different sports so they can use different muscles and learn new motor patterns. Resting a particular body part for 2-3 months will allow for optimal muscle recovery and prevent injury.
- Have fun – The body tends to stay relaxed & loose when you are having fun. Let your kids play the sports they love and remember that although healthy competition is great, too much pressure for success can increase stress. Elevated stress levels can result in tight muscles and indecisiveness during sport. You are less likely to get hurt while smiling.
Dr. Matt Johnson, DPT
2727 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60614
About the Author:
Matt owns a physical therapy clinic in the Lincoln Park/Lakeview East area. His clinic specializes in treatment and prevention of orthopedic & sports injuries. Matt is residency and fellowship-trained, holding advanced certifications in the assessment and treatment of muscle & joint pain. He played several sports growing up and continues to stay active through running, baseball, and golf. He loves working with both kids and parents, helping them to achieve their personal wellness goals. Assisting others to maintain an optimal quality of life and a healthy lifestyle is his priority. Contact him if you have muscle or joint pain, limited range of motion, muscle weakness, or impaired balance. Physical therapists are movement scientists, specializing in human movement and function.