Ah…fall sports season is here again. I love this time of year as a pediatrician because I get to see so many athletes for their sports physical. It’s fun to see their excitement and passion for their sport.
As a pediatrician for 19 years in the same community, I have seen so many of these teens grow up and it brings me joy to see them happy, healthy and exercising.
I have been asked many times why I let my boys play football. My usual response has been that they are safer on the football field than they are in our own back yard.
Nowadays with so much more information regarding concussions and their effects, it has become apparent to me how important education about sports and their safety have become.
I have watched my sons play sports for the last 14 years. They have not been without injury or concussions, for that matter, but we had a wonderful experience by working together as a team.
Here are the 20 things I have learned along the way as a pediatrician and parent of a student athlete:
- Be available. Attend their activities and show interest.
- Get to know the coaches, parents and other athletes. Remember, it takes a village.
- Let the coaches coach and the officials officiate.
- Get to know the Code of Conducts and Regulations for your school and really go over them with your athlete instead of just signing the Sports Physical form.
- Watch for burnout in your teen.
- Encourage your teen to get good rest.
- Plan healthy meals. As an athlete they need “good fuel.” I often tell teens they’re like a nice car and they wouldn’t want to put bad gas in their nice car, otherwise it won’t “run” right. This is especially important for dancers, wrestlers and runners.
- Make sure they eat regular meals and drink plenty of water before, during and after practices and games. Chocolate milk is an awesome after-sports drink.
- Schedule a sports physical annually and ensure the forms provided include all of their medical information and emergency contact information.
- Ensure their immunizations are up to date.
- Make sure they have appropriate sport protection that fits correctly and is used all times.
- Discuss supplements and sport enhancements with your pediatrician if your child is taking any.
- Review their weightlifting regimen and make sure it’s reasonable and appropriate for their age. Ask the coach, athletic director or athletic trainers if you have any questions.
- Consider a sports trainer to evaluate proper execution and strength training.
- Consult with a Sports Medicine team if a sports related injury occurs.
- Keep an eye on your athlete. How are they feeling? Any injuries? Any headaches? Many times they will blow off their symptoms and injuries until it has gone too far. Seek medical attention if you have concerns.
- Encourage cleanliness by encouraging them to shower after all practices and games and make sure they bring home their towels and practice uniforms/jerseys to be washed regularly to prevent skin infections.
- Remind them not to share water bottles and sport equipment, use hand sanitizer and wash their hands regularly to prevent spread of infection.
- Make medications for allergies, asthma, diabetes, etc., readily available if needed and follow the guidelines spelled out by the school on forms needed and how medication will be stored and available.
- Remind them regularly they are a student first and an athlete Encourage their studies and class attendance.
I wish everyone a safe, happy and competitive season – whatever their sport!