Westborough, MA April 10, 2015 It is one thing to get injured in a high school sport but it is another one entirely when you are told “you are out for the season.” Injuries are often unavoidable and occur somewhat randomly. But there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of a season ending injury. First, be in the best shape of your life. Student athletes need time to get into “game shape” in the weeks and months before try-out. All too often team rosters are set years in advance and the try-out is nothing more than a formality. I have always believed this was wrong. Arguably, for athletes who are on the team some do not come to camp (so to speak) in the best shape of their life. This puts them at risk for injury e.g. muscle and tendon strain and inflammation, that can be avoided by staying in shape in the off-season. It is common that teams stay together much of the year with mandated conditioning programs – even in high school. Captain’s practice is a sanctioned team event that is geared toward preseason conditioning in sport specific activities. Team coaches are often not permitted to attend or supervise these informal events under state interscholastic rules.
Another way to avoid injury is to stretch both before and after exercise. Doing this allows the muscles to replenish needed blood supply before they relax at the end of practice. This cuts down on stiffness and muscle spasm experienced by many elite athletes. Finally, nutrition and hydration are two key elements to healthy play and afford the body supplemental fuel needed to push oneself for the entire practice and game. Healthy eating is a sure way to build muscle and have the available fuel for the fast paced training varsity teams demand. Being in shape can reduce the likelihood of a season ending injury.
Unfortunately there are injuries that take place each season. Sometimes serious ones that require surgery or physical therapy or a combination of treatments and a prolonged recovery. This can be devastating for a serious athlete. I remember one of my sons being told he was out for the season during his senior year in high school after he sustained a half-moon fracture to his patella playing lacrosse. He was heartbroken and to his credit – was able to rehabilitate his knee with time to spare earning him a spot on the playoff roster.
One should not underestimate the psychological impact of those words “out for the season” on an athlete’s sense of self and feelings of belonging. Parents and coaches can limit the collateral damage they instill with sensitivity. Only a physician can determine when a bone is healed and a player is good to go – but in the example I provided the athlete worked very hard with his physical therapist and team trainer to ready himself for the day his bone was considered healed. In the meantime, using the same recommendations in the start of this paper e.g. nutrition and stretching, can afford an injured athlete his or her best chance to return to the field of play.
Keeping a student actively involved with the team at practice and extra activities like the pregame pasta parties will continue to support him or her and prevent subtle self-disdain and marginalized behavior.