The physical therapists agreed that many athletes fail to warm-up sufficiently. “Often, athletes will just run around a bit and think that they’re warm, but a warm-up should last 10-15 minutes until you break a slight sweat,” says Steve. A light jog, calisthenics, or a gentle ride on a stationary bike is a great way to warm-up. Your purpose is to elevate both heart and body temperature. The Tycz’s say, “[Start] low then gradually increase to a moderate level of activity. Soft tissue (muscles/tendons/ligaments, etc) that are warm will bend then rebound under stress; cold ones break. Most coaches are pretty good at this now during organized practice/games, so this might be more relevant for when the athlete is doing an individual workout.”
A lot. All year long. “Most people think about stretching just before their activity but you should stretch two or more times every day when trying to get more flexible and once daily for maintenance. Hold your stretches at least 15 seconds, use a clock or count slowly to 20- we all count fast. Flexibility prevents injuries and in most cases increases sports performance,” say Matt and Kim. Steve agrees and has seen many knee injuries due to tight hamstrings. Flexibility is also improved with adequate warm-up (above) and a strong base. (see below)
3. Build a base.
“Foundational strength is integral to every sport and life activities as well,” says Matt Tycz. Core strength includes not just abs but also lower back, hips, and glutes. These muscles help us balance and are important for keeping healthy knees and spine. Steve Vance treated Appalachian Trail through hikers who had very weak hips and therefore bad knees. Many of our sports: hiking, cycling, running are about moving forward instead of moving side to side. Take some time for leg lifts, walking lunges, or single leg dips that work the core.
4. Take Head Injuries Seriously.
Don't ever ignore any symptom after hitting your head. The list of concussion symptoms is very long and doesn't have to include loss of consciousness. “We are learning that concussions are much more common than we ever thought. If you hit your head (even lightly) and feel anything other than completely normal (such as headache, nausea, hearing sounds/seeing lights/smelling weird odors that aren't there, trouble focusing, lightheaded, dizzy, not able to do simple tasks/feeling clumsy during sports activities or even something like tying shoes, overly tired, can't sleep, can't concentrate, etc)– tell your coach/athletic trainer/parent. We are talking about brain cells that could be permanently injured,” say Matt and Kim.
5. Don't ignore the pain.
“Most athletes will get hurt eventually, the key is early detection and treatment. Some muscle soreness is expected with new or hard workouts, but pain that lasts for more than a few days or feels like it is in bone or joint is not normal. Don't ignore it, tell a coach/athletic trainer/parent and if needed go to a doctor or PT. Then listen to what they tell you to do and do it. The sooner you take care of the little injuries the less likely they will become a big one that can end a season or multiple seasons.”