For student athletes it’s important to know what to do to prevent injuries. A part of preventing injuries is preparing your body before hitting the field by warming up muscles and being well rested and hydrated.
Dr. Darren Robbins, DPT, with Prowers Medical Center advises athletes to spend 15 to 20 minutes before practice stretching. Stretching keeps muscles in balance.
“We do a lot to strengthen muscles, but we do very little to lengthen them and keep them flexible. Stretching helps avoid muscle strains and tears,” Robbins said.
Dr. Travis Hall, DPT, also advocates stretching before games. He advises athletes start at about 30% intensity, then after a few minutes, go to 50% intensity, then to 75%. At that point, you are likely ready to start your full workout. If you are keeping track of your heart rate, shoot for 50% maximum heart rate during your warm up.
“The best warm up is to take whatever activity you are getting ready to do, and mimic it at a lower intensity. For example: if you are biking, start slow, easily spinning without much effort. Then increase your speed or resistance every two minutes until you get to full speed. If you are lifting weights, focus on exercises that work your target muscle group and lift light weights, completing 15 to 20 repetitions. If you are running, start with a jog and some dynamic exercises like butt kickers or high knees to get your body moving,” Hall said.
For a cool down, Hall recommends pretty much the same routine, adding static stretching. Static stretching means no movement (for example, a traditional hamstring stretch). You are trying to make your muscles more flexible by stretching them somewhat outside of their normal comfort zone.
Besides stretching, Robbins stresses that kids eat well, get good sleep and stay hydrated throughout the season. He tells his student athletes to eat a banana a day to help avoid muscle cramps—thanks to potassium.
“If kids continue to cramp, I have them start drinking pickle juice. It’s a trick the Philadelphia Eagles use to avoid cramps in the heat,” he added.
Robbins and other physical therapists and physical therapist assistants attend high school and college sports games—as well as coach youth sports teams—to help kids succeed at a sport, learn about body mechanics and how to best avoid injury. In his role as athletic trainer, Robbins supports area coaches with injury care and medical questions. As an athletic trainer he tapes ankles and gives advice on conditioning, but more importantly, he handles medical emergencies, diagnoses injuries and concussions, provides rehab and recovery plans and helps athletes avoid injury. Thanks to a grant award received by the medical center, PTs like Robbins can follow up with medical care after an injury occurs.
“While on the sidelines, I make the call on an injury—I determine what’s going on and how severe the injury is and whether or not I should put an athlete back into the game. Parents appreciate that I am there and I can diagnose the problem as it can save them a trip to the emergency department. It provides ease of mind for coaches and parents,” he said.
The Prowers Medical Center Rehabilitation team supports athletes on and off the field. For more information about physical therapy and rehabilitation services at Prowers Medical Center, call (719) 336-6728 or visit prowersmedical.com.