How High School Athletes Can Protect Their Spine
Category: Spinal Cord Injury | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: September 5, 2019
Another school year is upon us, and soon millions of high school athletes will be lacing up their cleats and taking the field for another year of sports. But when you combine the high speed movements of sports with the complexity of a growing and developing spine, it’s easy to see how injuries can occur. Injuries are not 100 percent preventable, but if teens are smart about how they treat their bodies and train for athletic activity, they can help keep their spine healthy throughout the season.
Spine Protection Begins Before The Game
Keeping your spine healthy during athletic activity begins long before you step on the field. Some ways to help protect your spine during the upcoming season include:
- Slowly Increase Workload – Overstressing your spine is one of the easiest ways to develop an injury, so it’s important that you slowly work towards game speed. Do some training exercises in the days and weeks leading up to tryouts, and then use practices to keep improving until you’re ready to go full speed in a game. If you haven’t put in the work during the offseason and you try to jump into full speed drills during practice, you’re at a higher risk for strains and sprains. Use preseason practices and games to get your body ready for the real thing.
- Stretch – Before any workout, practice or game, make sure you take time to stretch your whole body, especially your back and neck. Your spine is a complex structure with many soft tissues, ligaments and muscles, and all these areas need time to transition from a relatively inactive state to the active state associated with athletic activity. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to warm up and prepare your body for the upcoming activities.
- Cross Train – Another good habit to get into if you are going to play sports this high school year is to cross train in the offseason. Cross training involves participating in exercise routines that involve different activities and challenge other muscle groups than you normally would during a standard in-season workout routine. This will help ensure your muscles develop evenly and reduce your injury risk.
- Eat Right – If you’re on your own for school lunch, it can be easy to make some less than healthy choices. Junk food and foods that are high in fat can lead to the onset of inflammation in your spine and cause pain and discomfort. It’s fine to indulge occasionally, but don’t make a habit of choosing unhealthy food options, otherwise your injury risk, and your weight (which also puts more stress on your spine), can increase.
- Stop Small Problems – Finally, in the event that something just doesn’t feel right with your spine, shut it down and talk to the team athletic trainer or your personal physician. By this age you probably have a pretty good understanding of the difference of being sore and being injured, and if you’re trying to play through an injury, there’s a good chance that you only make the injury worse. Taking a little time off and ensuring your spine fully heals can get you back to full health much sooner than trying to play at less than 100 percent. Don’t miss the rest of the season because you didn’t want to miss a game or two with your back injury.
For more tips on how to keep your spine injury-free this season, or for help with your back pain, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today.