It’s that time of the year – new backpacks, fresh haircuts and joyful parents. For many students, the fall sports season has also begun. Jefferson experts have a few reminders to make sure your team is ready.
Sports physicals are required for most students before the season starts. Talk to your child’s doctor to see what pre-season screening is needed and if an electrocardiogram is appropriate.
“For most student-athletes, I recommend a full physical including an electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) to look for potentially lethal abnormalities. Make sure to consult a doctor who is skilled in reading athlete ECG’s to reduce false positives and unnecessary additional tests. This simple test can help prevent the tragic loss of life caused by sudden death in student athletes,” said David Shipon, M.D., FACC, sports cardiologist at Jefferson Health.
For those in high school and college, pre-season work outs can be intense with multiple sessions per day. And getting back into a fitness routine can be an adjustment for anyone. Emily Rubin, Registered Dietitian in Jefferson’s Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology says that preparing your body for the hard work is key.
“Hydration is number one. Aim for ½ cup of water for every 15-30 minutes during intense workouts. Gatorade, Smart Water or coconut water are also good choices to keep electrolytes balanced,” says Emily. “It’s also important to get back on a regular sleep schedule, aiming for at least eight hours.”
Emily also recommends a balanced breakfast with protein and carbohydrates: Eggs on wheat toast, Greek yogurt with granola, peanut butter and banana or a protein shake are all good options. Keep in mind that your body needs two to three hours to digest a regular meal and a ½ hour for a small snack like a granola bar.
When choosing activities and sports for the school year – change it up. Experts say that overspecialization, or concentrating exclusively on one sport, can lead to overuse injuries.
“In recent years, there has been a trend towards early single sport specialization in young athletes. The hope has been that choosing to play one sport at any early age would lead to enhanced performance and progression to an elite high school, collegiate or even professional level,” says Dr. Michael Ciccotti, Chief of the Division of Sports Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, and The Everett J. and Marian Gordon Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University, and Director of the Rothman Institute’s Center for Sports Medicine.
“The limited research data available suggests, however, that early single sport specialization does not ensure progression to an elite level and may lead to an increased incidence of overuse injuries in these athletes.”
Dr. Ciccotti’s team at the Rothman Institute at Jefferson just completed the largest research study ever assessing this topic:
“We surveyed over 3000 high school, collegiate and professional athletes on early single sport specialization. We determined that current high school athletes have chosen to specialize in a single sport at a statistically early age than current collegiate and professional athletes, confirming that trend. Furthermore, those younger, single sport specialized athletes recalled a statistically higher incidence of sports related injuries than the current collegiate and professional athletes. The bottom line is that athletes may be better served by participating in a variety of sports until they’ve reached skeletal maturity in the later teenage years.”