Spring is in the air, temperatures are getting warmer, and hopefully the last snow storm is behind us. As I drive around town on the weekends I am starting to see all the little leagues sports teams starting up. From soccer to baseball and football, gymnastics to ballet, our kids are getting involved in sports and activities and loving every minute of it. Injury prevention, improved performance and reaction time are always a goal for participants and parents; chiropractic care greatly helps both these categories.
Injury prevention may not be the first thing on your mind when you are watching your kids play sports. We want our kids to have fun, learn some team skills and of course score some points. As they get older, risk of injury increases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that high school athletes suffer 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations each year. High school and college athletes receive more attention and training than kids do, yet minor injuries at a young age can have long term effects. Children are going through developmental and growth stages, so keeping a healthy aligned spine and functional nervous system is very important.
Kids are resilient; they bounce back very easily… right? Let me ask you a question. Have you ever seen a tree that is growing on an angle? Maybe the wind blows a lot in that area, or maybe it got bumped when it was small and no one was there to straighten it up. It continued to grow and get taller and bigger and more stable. I have seen many mature trees that are bent or growing at an angle that seem strong and healthy, but likely they would be more stable if they were still growing straight.
Kids at this young age are like those young trees. Bumps, collisions and falls may seem like minor incidents but have lasting effects. Running into another player, falling on the ground repeatedly, being tackled, hit in the head, falling off the skateboard; all can cause injuries to the spine and nervous system. Often the pain or bruises will disappear fairly soon, but function may not return as easily without treatment. It is important to get kids checked, and if needed adjusted so the young tree may continue to grow strong and straight.
Young athletes today often think they are invincible. The following tips by the American Chiropractic Association can help ensure your child does not miss a step when it comes to proper fitness, stretching, training and rest that the body needs to engage in sporting activities.
Encourage your child to:
- Wear the proper equipment. Certain contact sports, such as football and hockey, can be dangerous if the equipment is not properly fitted. Make sure all equipment, including helmets, pads and shoes fit your child or adolescent. Talk to your child’s coach or trainer if the equipment is damaged.
- Eat healthy meals. Make sure your young athlete is eating a well-balanced diet and does not skip meals. Avoid high-fat foods, such as candy bars and fast food. At home, provide fruit rather than cookies, and vegetables rather than potato chips.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Certain sports, such as gymnastics, wrestling and figure skating, may require your young athlete to follow strict dietary rules. Be sure your child does not feel pressured into being too thin and that he/she understands that proper nutrition and caloric intake is needed for optimal performance and endurance.
- Drink water. Hydration is a key element to optimal fitness. If our muscles are dehydrated they lose flexibility and endurance. Teenage athletes should drink at least 64 ounces of water a day. Younger athletes should drink five to eight 8-ounce glasses of water. The general guideline is to drink half your body weight in ounces per day at a minimum.
- Avoid sugar-loaded, caffeinated and carbonated drinks. Sports drinks are a good source of replenishment for those kids engaged in long duration sports, such as track and field. Sports drinks should not be used throughout the day but may be used in moderation while you are training or practicing.
- Follow a warm-up routine. Be sure your child or his/her coach includes a warm-up and stretching session before every practice, game or meet. A slow jog, jumping rope and/or lifting small weights reduces the risk of torn or ripped muscles. Flexibility is key when pushing to score that extra goal or make that critical play.
- Get plenty of rest. Eight hours of sleep is ideal for the young athlete. Lack of sleep and rest can decrease performance. Sluggishness, irritability and loss of interest could indicate that your child is fatigued.
Many professional athletes and Olympians utilize chiropractic care. Aaron Rogers, Tiger Woods, Derrick Rose, Jerry Rice, Tom Brady, Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, John Stockton, Michael Jordan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and many more. Most teams have chiropractors on staff to help the athletes perform at their best. In fact over the last year I have seen football and soccer players getting adjusted on TV. They know that keeping their nervous system functioning at its best is the key to optimal performance.
Research has shown that chiropractic care can help boost performance. A study of athletes by the Journal of Chiropractic Research and Clinical Investigation concluded that athletes who received 12 weeks of chiropractic care exhibited 30 percent improvement in reaction time, versus a group with no chiropractic care. Another study from the Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research showed baseball players receiving chiropractic treatments enjoyed significant improvement in their capillary count, which leads to healthy oxygenation of blood supply crucial for muscle function, performance and healing.
From injury prevention and treatment to performance development and enhancement, chiropractic can help kids of all ages as they venture out this spring and summer to engage in sporting activities. Whether you and your kids are just weekend warriors or training for a specific event, I encourage you to add chiropractic to your training schedule so everyone can be in prime playing condition.