After the delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the new sports season is set to begin, and amateur and professional athletes are returning to the fields, courts, pool and tracks, all raring to play their respective sports.
As they return to the competitive sports roster, athletes should gradually acquaint themselves with their activities and follow sports safety protocols. With the right pre-participation planning and measured return to full participation, they should take the right steps to prevent injuries and enjoy a competitive season.
Injuries are part and parcel of any sport, and how an athlete overcomes those injuries in the prevention and curative process is very important for the longevity of an athlete’s career, be it at the beginner or professional level.
Like the professional staff, from the coaches to the trainers, an athlete’s parents too play a vital role in their success or failure in their respective field of expertise.
Let’s discuss a few points on how parents are the catalyst in preparing athletes for success and making them adaptable with a long-term vision.
Sports safety tips
Here are a few ways that parents can help their kids prepare for the sports season while reducing the risk of injury:
· Preparing an athlete to be is physically and mentally in the game
Parents, with assistance from coaches, nutritionists and trainers, among others, should determine whether their children are psychologically and physically accustomed to the sport or activity level they’re involved in. Do not push them into something they do not want to do be.
· Pre-participation test – Physical level
All athletes should have a pre-participation test to determine their game-readiness and to reveal any condition that may limit participation or performance, such as a postural correction, concussion, ROM issues, etc., to give the right information on their children’s physical readiness.
· Neuro-cognitive test for psychological readiness
A basic neuro-cognitive test can be done to access the attention, reaction, language, perception and other factors to understand the child’s mental capacity better. This has to be done under strict supervision of a professional cognitive neurologist. This test is very advantageous for athletes playing contact sports.
· Hydration protocols
In hot and humid weather conditions and in normal daily physical activity, the risk of getting dehydrated is imminent and the incidence of more serious forms of heat illness increases. Make sure the athlete is well-hydrated and one simple way to check is the colour of urine pre, during and post-match time. Another way to check dehydration is by a specific-gravity test with a handheld instrument.
· Ensure safe weight loss and maintenance
Drastic weight management practices can compromise athletic performance and negatively affect an individual’s health and fitness. Many individuals often attempt to lose weight by starving, because of body shaming by others, or by engaging in unhealthy weight management protocols with fluid restrictions. It is important that athletes work with trainers, nutritionists or qualified healthcare professionals in establishing a balanced diet and approach to weight gain or loss. No fad and copied diets from others! It has to be individualised according to each athlete’s body composition and activity in sport. Parents play an important role in preparation and execution.
· First aid and medical support system in place
A first aid and medical team with qualified professionals should be at the site of the game or in training to address injuries such as concussions and joint and muscle injuries. Parents need to have an open line of communication with the management regarding any injuries to their children. An emergency medical plan of action should be in place. Knowing that medical care is in place and that they are prepared for an emergency will give parents peace of mind.
· Proper medical history
Medical screening is essential for all prior to participation in any sporting activity, be it beginners or professionals. Parents should share the reports with the management or support staff as part of the protocols. Any medical-related issued can be sorted out well in advance, which may affect the performance of the athlete.
· Check out the coaches’ qualifications
A background check on coaches and the support staff should be thorough – they should have a background and knowledge in the sport they are coaching, with proper and appropriate credentials from the sport’s governing body or organisation. All coaches should have cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first-aid training and should plan for emergencies.
· Insist on practice of good personal hygiene
With the advent of Covid-19 and other related issues, it is critical that athletes be discouraged from sharing towels, clothes, soap, water bottles, disposable razors, inner garments, hair clippers, etc. Showers and use of a deodorant is a must at all times in prevention various infection-related issues and personal hygiene. Maintaining proper personal hygiene is non-negotiable. All clothing and equipment should be laundered and/or disinfected on a day-to-day basis.
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· Allocate rest and recovery time
Allow time for the body to rest and rejuvenate with proper diet, sleep and other forms of recovery in between seasons. If athletes don’t make time for recovery, injuries can occur. Adapting to the next sporting season, with appropriate strength, flexibility and balance training, and under the supervision of a trainer, will help ensure a strong season ahead.
· Be a role model
Parents should educate themselves about the sports in which their children express an interest. They should be in communication with the coaches and support staff regarding their child’s progress or regress and take adequate measure to make the child enjoys the game. Develop a keen interest in making the child follow a healthy lifestyle and discipline – be a good role model from food habits to personal habits. Focus on skill development through multi-sports involvement and allowing decision-making – be it bad or good. Support them through the process and not winning alone.
· Mental and physical support during injury phase or low phase in their career
The most important and critical aspect of parents being proactive is during this phase of any player’s career.
- Always be positive and see the cup half full rather than half empty.
- Ensure proper communication with the coaches and support staff to understand the child’s needs at every stage.
- Never overindulge during the phase, and make them self-reliant.
- Make them understand injuries and failures are always stepping stones to success.
- Never make comparisons with other players.
- Motivate them through short-term goals, with one step at a time
- Facilitate active rest and recovery.
- Constant motivation is the key.
- Never judge them harshly during failure.
- Take the help of the right professionals during this period to come out of it successfully.
- Prepare them on all aspects to face the challenges of sport and life.
- At the end of the day, make them enjoy the game, and the rest will follow.
A true win-win for the team, individual athlete and family members and friends cheering on the sidelines will happen through varied situations and circumstances coming together with good synergy.