As students return to school this week, athletes in fall sports are getting their bodies back into the game after summer break.

“Whether you’ve been active all summer or lying on the beach, you’re probably not ready for the competitive demands of preseason training,” said Stephanie Stefanelli, a certified athletic trainer with the UCHealth SportsMed Clinic, which supports student athletes throughout Steamboat Springs. School District. “It is important to be mindful of your approach to this increase in energy demand.”

With a list of fall sports that may include football, volleyball, soccer, cross country, cheerleading, tennis or golf, teens and parents must keep safety front and center as student-athletes return to the field, gym, track and course.

Heat, hydration and acclimatization

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heat illness during practice or competition is a leading cause of death and disability among American high school athletes.

“The best prevention of heat-related illnesses is proper hydration and acclimatization,” said Stefanelli.

Early identification of symptoms such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and fatigue leads to greater recovery rates. Stefanelli emphasizes building during water breaks and, if possible, not practicing during the hottest time of the day.

“Make a hydration plan to focus on drinking water regularly and don’t use thirst as a guide,” she said. “Stay ahead and be prepared. If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.”

Stefanelli advises:

  • Monitor fluid intake and loss. If possible, weigh yourself before and after practice. For every pound lost, drink 16-24 fluid ounces or get 12 fluid ounces for every 30 minutes of exercise.
  • Switch to sports drinks if you exercise for more than 60 minutes and remember that hydration also comes from foods such as watermelon, grapefruit, strawberries and cantaloupe.
  • Watch for signs of dehydration and decreased energy, coordination and performance. If this happens, go to the shade and cool down with icy towels or ice packs on the neck, armpits and groin, or soak in an ice bath.

Acclimatization is the body’s ability to adapt to the environment, which in steam means an altitude of 6,732 feet. For those new to town, or those who have been away for the summer, it usually takes seven to 14 days of continuous exposure to adjust. During this period, Stefanelli recommends that you exercise from 90 minutes to two hours a day, continuously or intermittently, with one day off during that period.

Other prevention tips

Adequate sleep and proper nutrition are key to staying healthy for sports. The quantity and quality of sleep are critical to performance as well as mental and physical health. Eat healthy snacks and meals, including a “recovery meal” consumed 30 minutes after exercise and then a full meal 60-90 minutes after that. Meals can include protein and carbohydrates; Dairy, such as flavored milk, smoothies or yogurt are other options.

“You burn a lot of calories and you have to replace them,” Stefanelli said.


“Ask yourself, ‘Am I going into my sport with injuries – either pre-existing or a new one that happened over the summer?’ If so, you need to manage it properly before jumping back in,” Stefanelli said. “Communicate with your trainers and athletic trainer and modify activity as needed.”

To avoid injuries like strains, sprains and stress fractures, Stefanelli said take one day off each week and switch to a low-intensity activity like yoga, swimming or cycling instead. Also, don’t forget strength training, flexibility and stretching, as it allows the muscles to function optimally during activities.

And remember, your muscles aren’t the only part of your body that gets a workout: cardiovascular fitness—meaning how well your heart, lungs, and organs use oxygen during exercise—is another benefit of mixing in high-intensity exercise. high and low.

One final reminder: An annual physical is a requirement for participation in all Colorado High School Activities Association sports.

“This is a great time to talk to your primary care provider about any medical conditions or orthopedic concerns you may have,” Stefanelli said.

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