Preseason practice is the antithesis of remaining healthy. Coaches view these three weeks as a battle ground to eliminate the weak and elevate the strong. The sound of helmets smashing, whistles blowing, and lightning striking, signal the beginning of the most indisputably dangerous time of the year. This year 62% of high school athletes will ride side-saddle in their parent’s SUV, gingerly avoiding potholes while desperately trying to reach the ER before passing out from pain.
For high school football players, the CDC estimates that over 60% of you will miss time this year from heat-related illness and it will happen during practice 85% of the time. Nearly 40% of ER visits will be due to traumatic joint injuries to ankles, knees, and shoulders. Of those injuries, females will suffer them during the lethargy of practice and males will fall victim during the aggression of games. Cramming coaches, stern strength coaches, proud parents, and admirable athletic trainers can all benefit from the tips and tricks I’m here to provide. You’re about to get the upper edge to join the 38% of athletes who will not visit the ER this year.
Tip: Pee clear by 10am. Why not start with the basics. Your body is composed of 75% water, lets keep it that way. Your primary goal for the entirety of your athletic career is to stay hydrated. Hydration provides an opportunity to remain healthy. Dehydration sets the stage for injury. Ladies and gentlemen, look at the color of your pee. If it is clear, you are hydrated. If it is yellow, orange, or brown, you are not hydrated. Set a “clear” curfew every day. You should be peeing clear by 10am. Loss of focus, coordination, strength, and speed will result from a lack of hydration. Dehydration is the weapon and you are the accessory to the crime. Trick: Drink water to hydrate and sports drinks like Gatorade to re-hydrate. Consume as many ounces of water as you have pounds of body weight. Weigh yourself before and after every practice. Drink eight ounces of water for every pound lost. Drink 10% of tomorrow’s goal before bed. Repeat.
Tip: Buy Alka-Seltzer in bulk. Here’s a trick that will keep ice bags out of your armpits, off your groin areas, and into your sports drink. EVERY PRACTICE day, prepare a water bottle clearly marked to not be confused with water. Add 20 ounces of a sports drink, preferably Gatorade or Powerade. Toss in TWO Alka-Seltzer tablets. DON’T SHAKE. Add a splash of water or a hand full of ice. Alka-Seltzer contains 325mg of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory Aspirin, 1916 mg of heat treated sodium bicarbonate. and 1000mg of citric acid. The NSAIDS will thin your blood to help with inflammation at the cellular level while the sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) will buffer lactic acid. This compound in conjunction with the calcium, potassium, and magnesium found in Gatorade will aid in the hydration and replenishment of the electrolytes you lose through sweat. DO NOT CHUG this drink. You will find yourself in the 120 degree outhouse with a broken vacancy knob. Sip the athlete’s nectar every 15 minutes and you’ll be free and clear.
Tip: Injuries are yielded by force and deceleration. Trick: Add walking lunges, broad jumps, and back peddling to your warm-up. Since the beginning of time, sports teams have warmed-up before practice and games with the intent on bringing blood flow to muscles, activating various muscle fibers, and executing sport specific movements relative to acceleration and power. Enter, science. With every action comes an equal or greater reaction. We need to incorporate movements into the warm-ups that prepare athletes for the moment of deceleration, the junction just before acceleration, (change of direction), and the acceleration its self. Walking lunges, continuous broad jumps, and back peddling prepare athletes to get strong through elongation of muscles rather than contraction of muscles. You bring scouts to the game, these three exercises will keep them from leaving.
Tip: Research proves that athletes consume up to 60% less fluids when the temperature drops below 45 degree Fahrenheit. Trick: When it’s cold, drink chicken broth. Chicken broth is served in every professional locker room (for outdoor sports) in the country. Gatorade has 95mg of sodium per 8 fluid ounces. Chicken broth has nearly 800mg per 8 fluid ounces. On days where your fluid and electrolyte consumption is clearly limited, sneak a cup of chicken broth into your halftime grab bag. The 800mg of sodium will provide adequate replenishment to your electrolyte stores and bring a healthy craving of water to your tongue. If you’re really feeling aggressive, keep a thermos of chicken broth in the car during the summer heat. A good pull of that when you get in the car and you’ll be right back to where you should be. For carbs, we’ll wait until you’re 21 to have that talk.
Tip: Don’t be friends with your athletic trainer. Trick: Don’t hangout in the training room, socialize with, or text your athletic trainer. This is a two-way street and unfortunately athletes and trainers typically learn this far too late. You may be friendly with your trainer but do not be friends with your trainer. The truth is that the athletic trainers work for the athletic directors, as an extension of your parents, and in conjunction with your coach. When push comes to shove, your trainer will put you under the bus. Likewise, if it turns into a he said she said game, trainers should have no doubt that you will put them under the bus as well. With mouths to feed, mortgages to pay, and literally lives to protect, the sanctity of your friendship is at the back of the line. Athletes, whether you agree or disagree with your trainer, you must always respect their opinion and judgment. Athletic trainers, you may be friendly, but not friends with your athletes. Identify clear barriers, establish a pronounced culture, and give forward as much respect as you expect in return.
As an athlete,you essentially have two purposes; 1) Avoid the Training Room and 2) Make the team. You will never make the club in the tub and it’s your responsibility to educate, prepare, and execute to the best of your ability. Stay hydrated, grasp a consistent and meaningful strength training program year round, reach out to mentors, and establish clear boundaries in your family, personal, and athletic lives. Try to stay healthy and do not feel shame if you are not. Respect your trainer, their decisions, and your path to rectify anything that sets you aback. Don’t congregate in the training room, always take an ice bag to go, and never hide a headache. Remember, avoid the training room and make the team.