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Student Athletes and Injury Prevention

Last updated: April 5, 2021

Most children have made their way back to school. For some, that will also mean back to the field for spring sports and activities. Sports medicine physicians say there’s a potential of increased risk of injury after the extended time of physical inactivity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. David Hirschi, a Sports Medicine Physician with ThedaCare Orthopedic Care, outlines steps for injury prevention as students get back in the game.

General Guidelines

“As student athletes return to their normal sports schedules, let’s ensure everyone takes necessary precautions to help keep athletes safe and healthy,” Dr. Hirschi says.

To help avoid injury, coaches, parents, and athletes should follow these recommendations:

  • Warm up and cool down properly
  • Use proper training and technique
  • Increase training gradually
  • Drink enough water
  • Rest and take breaks when needed 

Steps to Ease In

Dr. Hirschi also suggested three key steps students should take when preparing to get back to sports.

Visit your doctor

A sports physical, which is required for student athletes, is a good opportunity for families to connect with their care team. Sports physicals help ensure students are healthy and prepared to train and compete safely. Oftentimes doctors will check range of motion in ligaments and cardiac health to ensure athletes are ready to hit the playing field.

“Sports physicals bring young people to the doctor for a checkup when they’re feeling good,” Dr. Hirschi says. “We get to touch base during an important time in a young person’s growth and development when there are a lot changes from year to year.”

Get physical

Athletes should begin practicing at home three to four weeks before the season starts. They can slowly work their way up to prepare for team practice. Young people should recognize that it may take time to get back to previous ability.

Don’t compare yourself to others or where you were in previous years, Dr. Hirschi says. Many are just getting back into sports again. It’s important that to get moving again without causing injury.

“Let’s be honest with ourselves as to where we truly are with our physical fitness level and choose activities that match that level,” Dr. Hirschi says. “Go slowly, listen to your body, and gradually build up to your previous activity level. Your body will tell you when it’s being overstressed. Take a break when you need it.”

Stretch it out

Keep your muscles and ligaments loose by stretching muscles before and after workouts. Practice agility drills, do balance exercises, and strengthen your core to help prevent injury.

Dr. Hirschi also added that just because a child plays multiple sports throughout the year, it doesn’t mean they’re fully prepared for their upcoming spring sport.

“Even when you transition from one sport to another, you may be at risk because the muscles you use from one sport to another can be different,” he says. “That’s why conditioning is so important. It can help prevent certain injuries.”

Know the Signs of an Injury

If a child suffers an injury, parents should watch for certain signs. Some injuries may require a trip to the doctor’s office, Dr. Hirschi says. Kids will sometimes play through pain, but that could worsen the injury.

Parents should watch for concussion. This can lead to dizziness, blurred vision, imbalance, and/or inability to concentrate. A doctor should evaluate a susupected concussion.

Other concerning signs of injury include athletes not using their arm or leg as they usually would. See a provider for any issue that lasts longer than a week, Dr. Hirschi says.

Beyond these guidelines, Dr. Hirschi says it’s important for parents to get involved. That can be as simple as going for a walk as a family or throwing a ball around in the backyard.

“Sometimes it’s just a matter of going out and doing it with them,” he says. “Our children look to us as role models. If we make exercise and healthy living a priority, they will likely do the same. These good habits start early, and parents are the best teachers.”

Schedule a sports physical for your child at

Tags: annual physical exam sports physicals student athlete student athletes

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