Student-athletes are currently in the middle of their fall seasons and will be transitioning to winter sports very soon. St. James Sports Medicine would like to remind athletes and their parents how to stay safe and avoid injuries.
For many athletes stretching and hydration seem like prominent areas of focus, but nutrition and properly taking care of injuries can be major factors in performance, as well as the athletes’ overall health.
"Student-athletes in high school can be dealing with fatigue and small injuries during the fall season, so they need to be especially careful when they move from one sport to another," said Bryan Mark, MD, sports medicine physician at Montana Orthopedics, part of Intermountain Health. "Taking the time to recover properly will help to ensure they can perform on the field of play."
Hydration is always a concern for those who are exerting themselves. Athletes are encouraged to drink lots of water and occasional sports drinks to stay hydrated, but they also need to take more breaks while competing.
Dr. Mark says nutrition is an overlooked issue he sees for athletes’ health. He notes a balanced diet taken at the correct times can make all the difference in performance.
"Eating fruits and vegetables can help keep athletes hydrated, but it’s also important to be consuming the right proteins and carbohydrates for energy," said Dr. Mark. "At this age, kids eat what they want with few consequences, but they may not realize the impacts it’s having on their performance.
Athletic trainers encourage their athletes to eat something with sodium after practice or a game to better retain the water they’re drinking. They say athletes should also avoid fatty and greasy foods for at least two hours before competing.
Additionally, athletes need to ensure that they are getting adequate calcium and vitamin D intake for injury prevention and healing, as strong bones can withstand impact and stress better than weak ones. Calcium is essential for bone development and maintenance, while vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Calcium-rich sources include dairy products, leafy greens, and fortified foods.
Dr. Mark says focusing on all aspects of an athlete’s health can ensure better performance at a top level. Doing so can help avoid injuries while also helping athletes recover faster when they do occur.
"Injuries are going to happen. It’s part of the game," said Dr. Mark. "It’s easier to recover when a person is already taking care of their body and knows the steps to take."
For more information on sports medicine or to find a provider, visit montanaorthopedics.com.