🕐 4 minute read
During a competitive basketball season, youth athletes tend to spend more time on a court than they may realize. They come home from games with scraped knees and sprained ankles that are all a part of the sport. Most players don’t complain about these physical ailments because when they are no longer on the court, they assume the pains will subside. But how can they prevent post-game discomfort from becoming long term injury? Proper rest and focused recovery may be the key to more time on the court at 100%. Here are some tips to a healthier basketball experience for your thriving youth athletes.
Taking the time after a game to rest is paramount to truly “bouncing back”. During the AAU season in particular, youth athletes may play 3-4 games in the course of 5-6 hours without blinking an eye. After a game, although admittedly tired, players will frequently patrol packed gymnasiums for the next game to watch. They will line up around a crowd to stand and watch a game, or will monitor games for the next timeout so they can shoot for 2 minutes at a time. These are among the worst things athletes can do in preparation for the next game.
Players would benefit far more from sitting and watching a game from the bleachers as a group or laying on the side listening to music. In the best case scenario, they may even attempt to grab a seat and do some homework! The most unfavorable option is for them to remain on their feet between their last game and their next. Kids need to learn how to relax amidst all the excitement. It may not be easy, but it is simple.
Once the day of games comes to an end, the rest must continue with sleep. The current generation of youth athletes sleeps less than any generation in the past, and it is certainly to their detriment.
Muscles need time to recover from the wear and tear of constant pounding of competitive sports. A good night’s sleep will directly impact muscle recovery, improve mood and decrease cortisol levels. Basically…youth athletes need it! Without ample time under the covers, players’ likelihood of injury increases and their ability to perform on the court will suffer.
After competitive play (especially in victory) the jolt of energy is so enjoyable for players that they tend to lose focus. They may not recognize the stiffness in their joints and tightness in their muscles until the next game is ready for tip-off. Kids tend to get caught up watching other teams’ games, and seeing school friends from other programs. They also tend to forget to take care of themselves!
“Proper rest and focused recovery may be the key to more time on the court at 100%“
Stretching after games is a terrific form of recovery as it is not very taxing on the body and easy to do alone. Players should be urged to stretch immediately after a game to recover the range of motion they may have lost from jumping, sprinting and stopping abruptly for several hours. The majority of competitive athletes are not nearly as flexible as they could be. Dynamic stretching before activity and passive stretching after activity are great habits to form at an early age. They are also key to feeling ready to move at full speed by game time.
Not only will stretching recover a player’s range of motion, it is linked directly to preventing injury. Lower degrees of mobility for youth athletes are directly correlated with injury occurrence. The more limber they are, the better they move and react on the court. If you can convince your son/daughter to stretch after every game, their bodies will thank you for it. Once it becomes a habit they will just consider it a part of their post game routine. Eventually they won’t bat an eye at what may have originally seemed like a tedious parental request!
Injuries for youth athletes are often unfair and unavoidable. Players who have a history of injury may exhibit a “why me” attitude towards rehabilitation when they should instead be thinking “how to”. Injury prone athletes need to be even more cautious when taking care of their bodies after games. Sadly they will never be exactly like their more physically fortunate teammates, but that does not mean they cannot stay with the group. It just means they need to be more responsible regarding their own health.
Injury prone athletes need to ice their ailing muscles and joints after games on a consistent basis. If your child has a history of foot, ankle, knee or shoulder issues they must ice after activity to prevent inflammation in the affected areas. Icing will prevent an excess of blood flow to injured areas that leave joints swollen and immobile for the next competition.
Ultimately players just need to understand the value behind taking care of themselves. If they understand how important rest and recovery are to their ability to play, they are likely to complete the items on the checklist. Size and strength are terrific traits for sports success, but the best ability is availability!