As August continues to warm up, athletes are also warming up in eager anticipation of returning to fall sports. While some athletes can participate in sports year-round, others may take the summer off and enjoy a well-deserved rest period. As coaches, trainers and parents, it’s important to understand a few key components to supporting athlete’s safe and seamless transition back to the game.
- DO ease back in
Most athletes won’t return to their pre-summer activity level when returning to sports. Losing muscle mass and strength takes three weeks, so start slow with shorter workouts, fewer reps and lighter resistance.
Meet athletes where they are at. Not only will this increase athletes’ confidence in their current abilities, but it will also help prevent injuries resulting from overuse and deconditioning.
- DON’T skip a warm-up or cool down
Research supports the benefits of neuromuscular warm-ups as a form of exercise that trains the nerves and muscles to react and communicate more effectively, thus reducing injuries.
Full-body moving or “dynamic” stretches, accompanied by exercises like high knees, backward jog, and squat jumps, mimic sports movements and properly prepare the athlete’s body.
Athletes should use their cool down to stretch their muscles and reflect on any potential discomfort or early signs of an injury. Use this time to become aware of your athlete’s response to the activity and readjust proactively.
- DO take breaks and communicate
When looking to recondition and get back in shape, most athletes typically hit it hard to achieve a conditioned state rapidly. Encourage breaks, especially when exercising outdoors.
Validate their hard work but communicate the benefits of breaks in supporting their well-being and as a time to listen to their body. This will foster trust and demonstrate commitment to athlete safety.
- DO prioritize coach compliance education
Remember that coaches play a critical role in maintaining athlete safety, but the buck doesn’t stop here.
Coach compliance benefits the coach and organization by reducing liability, building trust with parents and athletes, and ultimately reducing costs for insurance claims due to injury to both parents and organizations.
Click here to learn more about the proper return to sports guidance.
- Tara Hackney, P. (2022, August 12).
- Wolf, C. (2021, May 3). Get back in the game: 10 tips for a safe return after a season off. Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin. https://www.ohow.com/2021/05/03/get-back-in-the-game-10-tips-for-a-safe-return-after-a-season-off/