Photo by Brian Canniff –

Balancing life can be tough for anybody, but is especially tricky for student athletes.  Committing to an ultimate training program on top of a full academic schedule can lead to bad habits and injury.

As we progress further into the school year, students have not only made their return to the classroom, but the athletic field as well. With practices and game preparation in full swing, there are many important factors for athletes to remember when returning to higher levels of activity. We asked our partners at NovaCare to share some tips for that will help to make sure your fall sports season is a healthy and successful one.

– What and when you eat prior to activity makes a big difference in the way you perform and recover. Try eating two to three hours before your workout and make sure that you’re eating foods that not only contain adequate amounts of proteins and carbohydrates, but also provide you with sustainable energy, speed recovery time and boost performance. Early fatigue caused by malnutrition can result in improper mechanics, creating a predisposition to injury.

– Hydrate! Staying hydrated is critical as every cell, tissue and organ needs water to work properly. Drink 17 to 20 ounces of water two to three hours prior to practice, 7 to 10 ounces every 10 to 20 minutes during activity and 7 to 10 ounces of water after practice for every two pounds of body weight lost.

– Re-fueling after exercise is just as important, if not more important than pre-exercise nutrition. Eating protein, carbohydrates and a small amount of fat after activity prevents the breakdown of muscle, restores liver glycogen and can lead to better next-day performance.

– Never stretch a cold muscle; always warm-up before stretching. Stretching requires temporary lengthening of your muscle fibers, which need blood flow to increase mobility. Think of your muscle fibers as a rubber band; a cold and brittle rubber band will snap, whereas a rubber band that is warm and flexible will stretch.

– Make an appointment with your physical therapist to start a balance training exercise program. Increased neuromuscular control positively correlates with increased muscle contraction. The stronger the muscle surrounding a joint, the more that joint is protected which can help in preventing injuries such as ankle sprains and ACL tears.

– Finally, utilize your athletic trainer by having honest and open communication. A small ache or pain may not seem like a big deal, but it could turn into a season-ending injury if left untreated.

By: Jessica Gruca, ATC, sPT, and Chelsea Willette, MSAT, A.T.

Jessica graduated with a bachelor’s of science degree in athletic training from Millikin University. She is a former four-year collegiate athlete and member of the sports medicine club. Along with serving as an athletic trainer at Select Physical Therapy’s East Bell, AZ center, Jessica is also a first year physical therapy student at A.T. Still University.
Chelsea is the head athletic trainer at Pinnacle High School in Phoenix, AZ. She received a master’s degree in athletic training from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she worked in a diverse amount of settings and patient populations.

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