Spring Has Sprung: Returning Kids to Outdoor Sports
Elizabeth Matzkin, MD, Caroline Hu, BA and Emily Brook, BA
The snow is melting, the birds are chirping, and everyone is growing tired of those 6am Sunday morning hockey practices. Sunny days spent at the baseball diamonds and lacrosse fields are just around the corner. During this transition to spring sports, it can be easy to forget some important things for our young athletes. In order to ensure a smooth transition to spring sports, we have a few tips for a safe and fun return:
1) Check all equipment
: Kids grow at a fast pace. It may have been a few months since they have laced up their cleats or put on that lacrosse helmet. Make sure you check all of their gear, from cleats to gloves, for proper fit and any wear and tear before the beginning of the season. It is also to make sure any new pair of cleats or footwear is broken in properly before used in a practice or game to avoid blisters or sores.
2) Inspect field conditions
: Outdoor fields may not be in optimal condition at the beginning of the spring season, especially in regions with more extreme winters. Have a parent, coach, or referee inspect the playing field for debris, divots, and other uneven playing surfaces. Ensuring that young athletes are playing on safe surfaces is an easy way to decrease the risk of non-contact injuries such as ankle sprains or ACL tears.
3) Start off slow
: Off-season conditioning is certainly helpful, but athletes coming from a different winter sport might not be in peak condition for their spring sports. Have athletes participate in strength and conditioning geared towards the demand of their spring sport. Always start slow and gradually increase the intensity and demand of a training program in order to avoid overuse injuries.
4) Perform a proper cool down
: A cool down and light stretching after workouts is helpful in loosening up those muscles while they are warm and limber from training. Sport-specific muscles that haven't been used in a while will likely be a bit sore. For example, a spring baseball player’s throwing arm might be tight after using it primarily for stick handling and shooting in ice hockey all winter. For this reason, it is important to stretch before and after any athletic activity to prevent muscular strains and aches.
5) Wear sunscreen and stay hydrated
: The cooler, cloudy days of early spring can be misleading, but the sun’s damaging UV rays can penetrate through clouds. Always wear sunscreen, even if it doesn’t seem like a sunny day! Remind and encourage athletes to drink water before, during, and after practices or games. As the season gets warmer, be able to recognize the symptoms of heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion may start as muscle cramps and progress to heavy sweating, cold or clammy pale skin, a fast and weak pulse, general weakness, nausea and vomiting, and fainting. Any athlete experiencing these symptoms should be removed from play and moved to a cool area. If unrecognized, heat exhaustion may progress to heat stroke. Symptoms of heat stroke include a high body temperature (above 104°F), hot or red dry skin, a rapid and strong pulse, and possible unconsciousness. Heat stroke is a serious medical emergency. If you suspect a heat stroke, call 911 immediately and move the athlete to a cool area.
The return of spring sports and warm weather is exciting for both parents and athletes. Remember to check in with your athletes and encourage them to talk to you about any potential injuries. By following these tips, we hope you have a safe and fun spring season!