Preseason is arriving soon and high school athletes will be hitting the field for the opening day of fall practice. With many athletes working harder than they have in a while, Archbishop Spalding’s certified athletic trainer T.J. Morgan, past president of the Maryland Athletic Trainers’ Association, offers a few tips to help young athletes keep themselves in the game as they rev up their training during the three-week stretch of preseason:
First and foremost is hydration. Young athletes got to hydrate themselves not only before but during and after practice. Hydration does two things:
1. If they’re putting back an electrolyte solution, like a Gatorade or Powerade, it’s going to help replenish the nutrients they lose in sweat.
2. The water they’re taking in before, during, and after practice is helping to reduce the possibility of dehydration. Dehydration symptoms include an excessively dry mouth and clammy skin; heat illness occurs when a person is unable to sweat, reducing the ability to cool the body down.
You’re going to be sore.
An athlete’s body is going to get sore even if he or she trained steadily going into the season; and that’s OK. That’s normal. Recognizing the difference between soreness and pain is usually where student athletes have a difficult time.
Soreness feels like this: You go out and bench press with three sets of 10 on Monday and Wednesday; your chest is sore. That’s normal. That’s muscle soreness as a result of using those particular muscles. After a few more days, that soreness starts to resolve.
When you’re playing a vigorous sport, you work those muscles hard today, muscle soreness sets in a few days later, and you’re still working hard; you have to take care of those muscles. Stretch when you’re out of practice, not just at practice. Take the time to recognize that the muscles are sore and you need to cool them down; it could be as easy as sitting in a bathtub of cool water until your muscles are refreshed.
Be aware — is this soreness getting worse? Is it only when you’re playing or is it problematic for you after playing? Is this tightness in your leg starting to really hurt? Be aware of the difference. Alert your trainer, a doctor, or someone who can help you with sports injuries.
The “No pain, no gain” mentality is history.
At some point there is some credence to that old saying; but more importantly, ‘No pain, I play.’ That’s really what student athletes have got to think. ‘If there’s no pain, I can play.’ If there’s soreness, moderate activity and allow yourself to keep things going. T.J. Morgan says, “Kids tell me all the time, ‘Well, if I tell you I’m hurt, you’re not going to let me play.’ Well yeah, if you tell me you’re hurt. If you tell me you’re just sore, then we’re going to work on the things we need to work on to allow you to continue to succeed.”
Am I injured, am I hurt, or am I just sore?
Most young athletes don’t have a clear concept of the difference between hurt and injured. If it’s preventing you from what you’re trying to do at a high left, then you’re probably dealing with an injury. If you can’t do what you need to do on the field because something is painful – it’s limiting your ability to do play – then reduce your activity. If it’s preventing you from competing at the level at which you normally compete, it’s going to cause a few things to occur. It impacts your ability to compete and it could compromise your safety. It could also compromise a teammate’s safety; if you’re a pulling guard, for example, and you’re supposed to get out and block for your running back, and you can’t get to where you’re supposed to be because your quads or hamstrings are hurting and slowing you down, you’re creating a potential injury situation for somebody else. If it’s preventing you from being able to do your job at the highest level, protecting yourself and your teammates, then you probably need to look at what’s going on a little more seriously.
The athletic trainer is your friend.
Seek out the athletic trainers if you have them at your school; the athletic trainers are there to help get you through getting-in-shape pains and periods of significant soreness. If an athletic trainer’s not present, report soreness and injuries to your coaches. The coaches need to know. Coaches are aware that if Johnny’s the fastest guy on the team and he’s not out there competing, there’s probably a reason why; so, let the coach know what’s going on. Ultimately, student athletes are competitors, and they want to play. “They don’t want to be pulled off the field, they don’t want to tell somebody that they can’t do it. We owe it to them to protect their best interest and hopefully put them in a position to continue to succeed.”
Many thanks to T.J. Morgan for his pre-season training tips.