As the summer winds down, fall sports training is heating up. Athletes in cross-country, soccer and, of course, football are exercising and training like crazy to get ready for the upcoming season.
But unlike when I was a kid, coaches and parents are a lot smarter about keeping athletes safe in the heat. Rule changes, such as limiting practices and acclimatizing players, and coaches keeping up on sports science are helping athletes — and teams — perform the very best they can.
This week, I visited in studio and spoke with 1590 WAKR morning show host Ray Horner about this topic. We also offered tips on recovery and how to keep your athlete fresh.
Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion.
HORNER: With us is Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital. We’re also now in the “heat” of the fall sports season. All these teams are going, whether it be cross-country — I’m seeing the students running all over the place these days — or football practices, and that’s really evolved.
Going back when you and I played, it was 8 o’clock on, uh, the field. You were off at 11. You were back on at 1. You were off at 3 and back on at 5. But, coaches and everyone are a lot smarter on how to handle the heat now.
DR. CONGENI: Yeah, a lot smarter and, you know, I’m starting to hear … a lot of coaches talk about the, uh, recovery period and the overtraining period. I just heard this yesterday and I was happy to hear it — we had our, uh, Akron U sports medicine meeting — the soccer team this year for the first time [is going down to 1 practice].
In looking at sports science, you don’t get as much out of people with that 2nd practice. Have 1 really good practice, rather than a 2nd practice because it’s all about recovery and you want to get the best practices, quality practices that you can.
People are really going away from 2 really heavy practices and maybe making ones where, if you do practice twice, maybe one of those is really just going over a lot of the mental process of the game … and not as much of really hittin’ it hard and getting into the problems of the heat.
So, I’m glad to hear that a lot of our coaches are kinda reading up on some of the sports science aspects and recovery. They want their athletes fresh.
HORNER: And, that goes back to the OHSAA’s decision as well, which a number of other states have done, and Joe, that’s limiting the contact, you know, in football practice that started this year.
DR. CONGENI: [The recent rule changes are protecting kids]: pretty significant limiting of the contact, and a couple of years ago the 5 days before you can be in full equipment.
I still think that the high-school kids as of this week — I was out at practice yesterday — are not in full equipment yet. It has to be a progressive thing, 5 days.
It’s even 5 days per athlete, too. So if somebody came out Wednesday of this week, they had 5 days and their clock started today, not the day that the rest of the team started.
And so, yes, there are some rules changes and things. [We’re] trying everything we can to make kids safe and in the meantime, coaches reading a lot about sports science trying to make teams perform the best they can.
HORNER: These kids out there practicing a lot, whether it be soccer, cross-country, all the falls sports and, of course, football. If we have a kid coming home from practice, talking to the parents out there, and they had some cramps, muscles are a little bit sore, [what’s] the best way to, you know, get them back up?
I know water and that type of thing, but if they have a son or a daughter coming home from a hard day of exercising and prepping and training and such, what’s the best anecdote here?
DR. CONGENI: You know the simplest one, and we talked about heat a couple of weeks ago, is weigh your athlete daily and make sure that we’re not losing weight over time and make sure that we’re hydrating, like you said.
And perhaps, if they’re a heavy sweater, maybe salting the foods a little bit more, not salt tablets, but making sure salting the foods. Making sure that maybe they’re taking in an extra meal, a snack in between these [2 practices].
Kids are not always the best of knowing, if they are gonna go with 2 practices, that they need to have something in between there, too. And so, they may need to add a meal at this period, maybe a 4th meal would be beneficial, making sure they’re not losing weight.
And so, daily weights are probably the simplest and easiest way to keep up with your athlete.
HORNER: And then, some of those don’ts I imagine [are] not a whole lot of soda pop here. You wanna get the water and that type of thing, uh, electrolytes in, but what about some of the foods? You know [laughter], when these kids are working out hard they’re gonna want to eat everything in sight.
DR. CONGENI: Right. They are and that’s good. And so, it’s not a bad thing that they’re gonna be eating a lot. It’s just making sure that they’re eating some of the right things and a pretty good balance between getting enough carbs and getting enough protein. And again, we’ve come a long way. A lot of the kids are very aware of this.
And then, the other thing is making sure we’re getting good sleep. So our kids that are out there practicing … cross-country and soccer and football, this is keeping ’em out of trouble.
They’re ready to go to bed pretty early at night and they’re getting up pretty early the next day. And uh, that’s not a bad thing as long as they’re really taking care of their body.
HORNER: Boy, that’s an excellent point, too. I think sometimes we forget about that. But doing more and more reading, the proper amount of sleep is as good as a recovery period as a lot of things.
DR. CONGENI: Oh for sure. No doubt about it.
HORNER: Alright, Joe, thanks for coming in. We appreciate it.
DR. CONGENI: Okay, Ray. Thanks. Have a great week.
HORNER: You too. Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital, joining us.