Exceptionally hot, dry weather and a lack of proper pre-season training can lead to serious injury for high school athletes.
"Proper pre-season sports-specific training during the summer is key to an athlete's health during fall sports," physical therapist and owner of Craig Physical Therapy Rich Sadvar said. ""Dehydration makes you more susceptible to injury, too. Exhaustion from heat or overexertion can lead to serious injury because it forces secondary muscles to do a primary muscle's work."
Sadvar is seeing more and more athletes who have pre-existing injuries, sometimes as old as three years, that may be lifelong if not treated properly.
"Pay attention to early indications of pain. Not properly stretching before workouts puts you at risk for micro-tears that can become bigger problems during the season," Sadvar said. "And athletes need to know that they cannot walk into the season cold and expect to develop strength that doesn't happen during the season, it's off-season, sports-specific conditioning that increases strength."
Listening to one's body and relying on gut instinct are the most reliable injury-prevention techniques.
"During required physicals, mention any injuries to your health care provider so that you can get things checked out before the season," he said. "But, the ultimate responsibility rests solely on the athletes to make good, healthy decisions for their bodies."
Biomechanics is a crucial part of addressing the needs of young athletes, according to Sadvar.
"Physical therapists are highly trained in the biomechanics of the body how muscle, joints and bones work together through movement. When something isn't working right in the body, something else will pay for it," he said. "You are supposed to work through a little pain, but when it becomes a health risk, that's when enough is enough."
Craig Physical Therapy is a direct access clinic, which means that individuals can simply call or walk-in to schedule a consultation. And just as pre-season physicals are required to ensure overall health of an individual, Sadvar offers free athletic screens for athletes with pre- and mid-season pain.
"Many young athletes will have life-long problems because of undetected injuries," Sadvar said. "Right now, I'm dealing with three athletes who will have problems for the rest of their lives."
The bottom line, according to Sadvar, is that athletes don't always care about what might happen 15 years from now, but helping them to understand that simple routine changes will make a difference immediately makes taking better care of one's body easier.
All athletes should be cognizant of the unusually hot and dry weather this year.
"The big one is avoiding heat exhaustion. It is important to drink lots of fluids while practicing," said Neilene Ronis, physician's assistant at Mountain Medical Specialists. "Dizziness, upset stomach, light head and weakness are all symptoms of exhaustion and overheating. If you get hot and sweaty and then become hot, but clammy, the situation has worsened," she said. "If a person experiences any of these symptoms, they should sit down and rest in the shade and drink plenty of fluids."
Many athletes also forget the importance of a balanced die during pre-season.
"Eat healthy meals during the practice season. Eat three good meals a day," Ronis said. "If you go to practice hungry and then add stress and heat, you are much more susceptible to injury."