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How to Prepare for Football

Young people across the nation are pulling out the helmets and shoulder pads eagerly anticipating the beginning of a new football season. As they begin their daily workouts to start conditioning for the season, parents will begin to experience concerns for the young athlete’s well being. Athletics has long been an important part of many young people’s school experience. Participation in school sports provides an excellent learning experience for the young athlete to apply to many aspects of life.

They are able to stay physically fit, learn about teamwork, and develop self-confidence. But, with the participation in sports comes the risk of injury.

Nearly six million high school students participate in school sports yearly. Of these students, there are 3.5 million under the age of fifteen that are treated in the United States each year for sports related injuries. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, 448,200 are football-related injuries. Many of these injuries are minor, but major injuries occur as well. However, many things can be done to attempt to prevent your child from suffering from serious injury.

A very important principle to keep in mind is that these young athletes are not simply small adults. Because their bones and muscles are continuing to grow, they are more susceptible to injury. The growth plates that are in their bones are weaker than actual bone tissue. So, what would just be a bruise or sprain to an adult can be a potentially serious growth plate injury. That is why it is important that the young athlete be physically fit prior to beginning the football season. Many expect the sport to make the child become fit. But to prevent injury, and to shorten the recovery time in the event an injury occurs, good overall conditioning is best.

 

Many trainers recommend that the football player should work year round to maintain good physical fitness with a good exercise and nutrition emphasized. But, prior to beginning any exercise program, a thorough physical exam should be conducted to check the child’s overall health and to reexamine any prior injuries, especially those to the bones or joints. Prior to beginning daily football practice, it is recommended that a conditioning program of at least six weeks to develop muscular strength and endurance be started. Keep in mind that these workouts should be limited to no more than two hours.

In addition to the physical exercise to prepare for the rigors of the football season, a good healthy diet that is high in complex carbohydrates and essential proteins is recommended. In order for muscles to perform effectively, they need energy. This energy is supplied by glycogen, which the body makes from carbohydrates such as in breads, cereals, fruits, pasta, milk and so on. The body stores the glycogen for later use. If these stores are depleted, muscle fatigue results, which can make the athlete more susceptible to muscle injury.

Use of anabolic steroids among youth football players is becoming more common. It has been estimated that 500,000 young athletes use these. Although they do add muscle mass, they should be avoided. They have been proven to cause serious and even life threatening conditions.

Dehydration is another concern for the football player. Many of the practice sessions and games are conducted in very warm temperatures. Athletes can burn anywhere from 4000 to 5000 calories or more daily. For every calorie of this energy that is used, the body needs one milliliter of water. So, he should be drinking at least 4000 to 500 milliliters of water daily (four to five quarts). The key to accomplishing this is simply by constantly reminding him of his need for water. This will also help to prevent heat-related problems.

Another measure to prevent injuries on the field is to make certain the young athlete knows and abides by the sports rules. This includes using properly fitted equipment. The helmet and padding need to be comfortable and fit well without being either too loose or too tight. Mouth guards should be used to prevent dental injuries as well as to absorb blows to the head or jaw. Shoes should fit comfortably, and provide the needed support. If the child is struggling with painful blisters on the field, the coach needs to be made aware of this. Usually, the team will have a manager or trainer who can work with your child in properly padding and taping the feet to prevent discomfort. Also, problems such as with Athlete’s Foot should be treated immediately to avoid more extensive problems later.

Above all else, try to keep the sport fun. Teach the child not to play through pain. Too much of a focus on winning can cause the child to push too hard, risking more injury. Discuss concerns that you may have with the coaches and officials. Remember that it is your child’s healthy future that hangs in the balance of what happens today.

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