When an athlete pushes beyond their limits, that’s when injury happens. Pain is the way our bodies communicate that something is wrong. A key to keeping your student athlete healthy is to advocate that they listen to their body.
“Pain is a signal that you’ve pushed too hard and that you should stop,” said Dr. Darren Robbins, PT, DPT with Prowers Medical Center’s physical therapy department.
Robbins, who serves as a certified athletic trainer for high school and college athletes in Lamar, sees the most injuries at the beginning of the season when kids jump in too fast and think they should push through the pain—or that no pain means no gain.
“You can’t expect your body to do nothing for a long time and then suddenly wake up and go. It will fight back with pain. If you feel pain during a practice or game, it’s your body telling you it needs more time to adapt,” he added.
He knows firsthand how tempting it is as an athlete to tell the coach that something doesn’t hurt so you can keep playing, but he urges players to be honest and fess up.
“As a pitcher, I wasn’t honest that my arm hurt and I know it affects me to this day. I urge athletes to think beyond the right now. Continuing to play through pain might mean a long-term overuse injury or missing several games versus just one,” Robbins said.
He’s seeing sports instigate limits to avoid overuse injuries. For example, the Little League World Series has a pitch limit, requiring days off after a certain number of pitches.
If you do feel pain, he advises that you address it sooner rather than later so the pain doesn’t linger and become chronic. There are often simple exercises an athlete can do to strengthen muscles and joints to eliminate or prevent repetitive pain. Working out pre-season is a great way to be able to start strong and avoid injury.
While general soreness is normal and a sign that your workouts are strengthening your body, the soreness should resolve in a day or two. If it lasts longer, you pushed it too hard and should adjust next time.
“Soreness should be in the muscles, never the joints,” he said.
When you do get swelling form injury or extreme soreness, apply ice for 72 hours. Ice works to bring inflammation down. Have your student athlete take advantage of the high school’s ice bath.
“Swelling is heat, and you don’t want to add heat to heat. Ice only,” he advised.
It’s also wise to occasionally let your body take an extended rest. He witnesses kids going nonstop from one sport to the next, without a break. That’s not sustainable. He recommends taking at least a week off from practicing or training between seasons.
Of course, getting solid sleep during the season is necessary to help the body recover from physical activity and be ready to perform again. He acknowledges the challenges local athletes face finding time to get adequate sleep.
“It’s a unique challenge here in Lamar because student athletes often have to spend 3 to 5 hours on the bus for away games,” he said.
He advocates resting on the team bus if you can, then doing some stretching, even on the bus, to get your body geared up to play.
Lastly, to stay healthy and pain free, Robbins advocates listening to your coach and following the conditioning plan that they’ve established.
“The coaching and weightlifting staff are phenomenal in Lamar, many having played college sports. Trust them and listen to them,” he concluded.
Prowers Medical Center offers a full-spectrum of rehabilitation services, including a robust outpatient physical therapy program. For more information call (719) 336-4343.