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  • Writer's pictureTeresa Heitzmann, MSPT,


With the beginning of school only a few weeks away, high school athletes have already begun their exciting but often grueling preseason preparations. Avoiding injury can be a challenge. Below are suggestions to help keep your kids healthy, safe, and competitive throughout the entire season, while playing the sport they love.


Teach your kids to be mindful about what they eat and drink throughout the day. This will help them both on the field and in the classroom. According to KidsHealth, teen athletes may require 2,000 to 5,000 calories a day depending on their sports participation.

  • Eat three nutrient-rich meals per day, along with two to three snacks in between.

  • Eat plenty of protein to help your muscles grow and heal, plenty of healthy carbohydrates for nutritional energy, and stay away from processed foods.

  • Sorry kids, this means avoid fast food favs like McDonald’s, Dunkin, Taco Bell, etc.

  • Pack a a granola bar, an apple, or a handful of trail mix for your athlete instead.

  • Stay away from candy and heavily processed foods, as those benefits are short lived.


Staying hydrated is a must for competitive athletes. Knowing when to drink and what to drink is key.

  • Water is the BEST source of hydration for our kids.

  • Gatorade and other low calorie electrolyte dense sports drinks are also great.

  • Stay away from highly processed drinks, caffeinated beverages, and diet drinks. (yes this means stay away from soda friends!)

  • Hydration should be a priority every day throughout the season.

  • Hydrating up to 24 hours before performance time is necessary for maximum performance.

Why is Hydration Important?

Your body loses fluid when you sweat, and you may be sweating some of your fluid intake before you even hit the field.

Staying hydrated helps keep your body at the correct temperature, and it helps reduce muscle cramps.

The higher the temps, the higher the humidity, and the longer/intense the workout is, the more hydration you will need to keep your body fueled.

How to Stay Hydrated?

  • Drink water at lunch

  • Drink more water on the way to practice

  • Drink water before bedtime

  • Don't skip water breaks during practices/games


Players should be working out throughout the summer to build up their tolerance to performance in the heat. Turf fields are typically hotter then grass and other outdoor surfaces. Be prepared for the heat!


This is a tough one for our teens! Getting enough sleep is imperative for max performance. If you don't get enough sleep, your body is not recovering as it should be. Sleep helps you with your daily energy and your body's ability to recover from an intense workout. You need to have all the energy you can to perform at your best.


Before the season even starts, you should already be in shape.

“A lot of youth don’t think they need to get in shape,” says James Chesnutt, MD, a sports medicine specialist at Oregon Health & Sciences University. “They are couch potatoes right up to the first day of practice.”

Don’t let that be you. Practice is going to put a lot of strain on your muscles. Games are even more intense. You have to be prepared. Otherwise you are an injury waiting to happen.

Chesnutt, who coaches teen sports in Portland, Ore., tells his players that they need to start working out six weeks prior to the season, putting in an hour’s worth of exercise a day (something everyone should be doing already). That means a mix of lifting, cardio training, and active play that revs your heart.

  • Once your sport's season is under way, you can tone things down a bit, says Monica Hubal, PhD, an exercise physiologist at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

  • Instead of trying to build more muscle, you want to maintain what you built up in the pre-season. Your body is working hard enough at practice and during games. When you bring too much intensity to your personal workouts, you are overdoing it -- and that is a recipe for injury.

  • Hubal also recommends that you focus your workouts on the muscles that have to really perform in your particular sport.

  • Think Cardio: Your heart needs a workout, too. So include cardio exercises in your routine. Spend some time on a treadmill, an exercise bike, or an elliptical trainer. Or just get outdoors and go running.


Like drinking enough water or getting enough sleep, stretching is often overlooked when it comes to staying healthy during the athletic season.

  • After your muscles have warmed up, it’s essential to stretch prior to a workout/game.

  • Stretching is also necessary to restore normal muscle length and function following a big workout/game.

  • A combination of Static and Dynamic stretching is an effective technique and a great habit to get into as a young adult!

  • Try a weekly Yoga session as a fun and effective way to keep your body stretched, toned and in great alignment.


Unfortunately, with every sports season, injuries sometimes happen.

  • Knowing what to do when you have an injury is key to minimizing it's severity.

  • Even a minor injury can easily turn major if it is ignored.

  • “The risk goes up logarithmically,” Hubal says. “Five to ten times the risk of further injury.”

  • So take it easy, but don’t retreat to the couch. Keep exercising, only at a much less intense level. That's called active recovery.

  • “Be active, but don’t put any stress on the injured muscle,” Hubal says. “You can ride a bike or go swimming, just make sure the exercise is specific to the injury so you don’t make it worse.”

  • Finally, if you are injured, get good advice -- from a pro -- on how to heal.

  • Always let your coach, athletic trainer, and in some cases physician know when injury occurs.

Remember, the High School season is all about playing the sports you love, staying healthy and fit, and building memories that will last a lifetime!

~Best of luck to everyone and have a great season~

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