No matter how much you try to prevent sports injuries, they will still occur. These tips for recovery and prevention will help you maneuver a young athlete through a sports-related injury, during and after.
1. Avoid playing when injured or in pain. Pain indicates a problem. Your child needs to pay attention to warning signs from his or her body.
2. Get a definite diagnosis. In a situation where the injury lingers, get another opinion immediately. It’s better to know exactly what you are dealing with. The uncertainties (when will it heal? will your child need surgery?) add to anxiety.
3. Craft a game plan. Once you have a diagnosis confirmed by more than one specialist, come up with a plan for treatment, rest, and recovery.
4. Track the recovery. On a calendar, track your child’s recovery. Visualizing the progress in days and weeks will help him or her know what to expect and celebrate improvements – large or small - along the way.
5. Support and listen. As a parent or coach, your job is to listen to frustrations, empathize with feelings, and be a positive voice.
6. Encourage a team mentality. An injured athlete can be a team player even on the bench. If a child can cheer from the bench, he or she will learn the true meaning of being a team player.
7. Be consistent with therapy and don’t rush recovery. After the first couple of days, it is easy to forget, especially when the injury feels better but is not fully healed. The more faithful the athlete is about treating the injury, the quicker the recovery.
8. Be patient with the comeback. When kids are injured and cannot play or practice for an extended period of time, they should not expect to return to their previous level of play on the first day of practice. They’ve been out; they are rusty and have fallen behind teammates who have been practicing daily.
9. Start slow. Keep in mind the 10 percent rule. You should never increase your weekly workout by more than 10 percent over the previous week.
10. Include cross training. During recovery and to prevent future injuries, remember that cross training helps manage muscular imbalances that occur when a child specializes in one sport.
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12. Rest is imperative. The exact relationship between sleep and exercise is not clear, but experts say that sleep deprivation has a significant negative effect on performance and recovery.
13. Keep hydrating. Keep it up even while injured. It’s a good habit to maintain and remember that when exercising starts up again, dehydration can cause reduce the body’s ability to repair itself.
14. Continue icing. It speeds recovery.
15. Fuel the body. A nutrient-packed diet is key during recovery. Adding a supplement like glutamine or MSM and chondroitin may also help rebuild joints. Stay away from sugar and white flour. Consult a doctor before adding something new to your diet.
16. Refuel confidence. When a child is injured and out of the game, his or her confidence may also be injured. Recognize that it may take time for that to rebuild as well.
17. Help your child accept responsibility for the injury. Not that it’s your child’s fault, but that he or she accepts the injury and knows his or her role in determining the outcome.
18. Maintain fitness while injured. Depending upon the injury, an athlete may be able to modify training or add alternate forms of training to maintain cardiovascular conditioning or strength. Work with a trainer, therapist or physician to establish a good alternative workout program.
19. Deal with the fear. An injured athlete often returns to play fearful of another injury. Much of the fear is related to uncertainty. Make sure your child knows what to expect when returning to play and how he or she can work to prevent further injuries.
20. Giving up is not an option. Durability and resilience are part of what makes a great athlete.
Although a sports injury is often devastating to an athlete who hates to be out of commission, it often serves as an opportunity to work hard and come back even stronger.
Janis Meredith writes Jbmthinks, a blog on sports parenting and youth sports. After being a coach's wife for 29 years and a sports parent for 21, she sees issues from both sides of the bench.