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Helping Competitive Athletes Avoid Injury

For competitive athletes, injuries can lead to major setbacks to training and goals, potentially eliminating competitions. Poor sleep patterns, lack of proper nutrition, and muscle overuse can increase the risks of experiencing an injury. SCPT’s mission is to ensure that the athletes we treat listen to their bodies and pay attention to their overall health and wellness. Here are our top tips for athletes to avoid injury, remain competitive, and enjoy the sport(s) they love:

Sleep well: As you sleep, your body works to repair memory while releasing important hormones vital to maintaining optimal function. Seven to nine hours of sleep each night can help you stay focused on your training. The National Sleep Foundation recently released an article featuring a study from the SLEEP journal. The study reflected a decline in split-second decision making after a poor night’s sleep, while well-rested counterparts enjoyed increased accuracy. Learn how to prepare your body for restful and rejuvenating sleep with tips from SCPT’s blog, “Sleep your Way to Wellness.”

Eat well: Poor nutrition can make an athlete more susceptible to concerns like exercise-related fatigue, which can increase the risk of injury. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) describes its main nutritional concerns for a competitive college athlete to include low calorie intake, dehydration, iron deficiencies, and glycogen depletion. The NCAA states that up to 60 percent of female college athletes suffer from iron deficiency, which can lead to decreased immune and cognitive function. Healthcare providers might prescribe a supplement to aid in iron retention while recommending foods high in iron like dark leafy greens, lean meats, and beans. Speak with a nutritionist to ensure you’re getting enough calories from your diet, and fill your plate with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and protein. Avoid dehydration by consuming water before, during, and after physical activity.

Train well: When you experience pain during training or competition, your initial thought might be to work through the discomfort. However, doing so may leave you on the sidelines for the rest of your season. Instead, listen to your body’s internal clues to avoid overuse injuries. These injuries occur over time and can be harder to diagnose than an acute injury, like a bone fracture or dislocation. Consistent trauma to the bones, muscles, and tendons as a direct result of sports and physical activity creates overuse injuries like shin splints and tennis elbow. Other symptoms that indicate you’re training too hard can include trouble sleeping, headaches in correlation with activity, favoring one side of the body, muscle stiffness, and marked weakness. If you experience these symptoms, talk to your trainer or coach. They might be able to help determine the cause of the injury. STOP Sports Injuries, an organization committed to reducing sports-related injuries, confirms that improper training, technique or equipment can contribute to injuries. STOP Sports Injuries offers sports and injury specific resources for athletes, coaches, and parents.

If you’re an athlete, chances are you’re passionate about your sport. Taking care of your body’s nutritional needs, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, and paying close attention to signs of injury can help you enjoy competitive athletics for years to come. If you have questions about enhancing your performance while avoiding injury, connect with SCPT. Our therapists would be happy to answer your questions!