Caring for your athlete

Our team of experts want you as parents to have all the information you need to prevent sports injuries, provide the proper nutrition, encourage healthy sleep habits and more!

A concussion is an injury to the brain resulting from an impact to the head, chest or back transferring to the head. It’s not a life-threatening injury, but it can cause both short-term and long-term problems. A concussion results from a closed-head type of injury and does not include injuries in which there is bleeding under the skull or into the brain.

Concussion symptoms range, but if an athlete has any or all of them we must assume they’ve been concussed and immediate medical intervention is required. Fortunately, if the athlete follows the recommended course of action, 80% of concussions successfully resolve in 7–10 days. 

If an athlete has been diagnosed with a concussion by an athletic trainer, coach or official, he or she may not return to play for at least 24 hours and must be cleared to play by a doctor.

Importance of sleep
If you want to compete like an all-star, you’ve got to sleep like one. Seven-time Wimbledon champion, Roger Federer, sleeps an average of 11 hours a night. And NBA star, Lebron James, reports sleeping 12 hours a night. Sleep is a part of your training!

Chronic sleep loss leads to a 30–40% reduction in glucose metabolism, and significantly reduces the amount of time it takes for an athlete to reach the point of physical exhaustion. Overall physical strength, speed, accuracy, memory and reaction time take a big hit after repeated days of not enough sleep.

Game plan for optimal sleep:

  •  Balance work, school, social and training schedule to allow for adequate time in bed
  • Obtain 8 or more hours of sleep a night
  • Maintain a regular sleep/wake schedule
  • Avoid wide swings in bedtimes and wake times on weekends
  • Avoid over-the-counter sleep medications that can leave you tired and sluggish the next day
  • Reduce your consumption of alcohol and caffeine
  • Turn off your cell phone during your nighttime sleep
  • Maintain a sleeping environment that is dark, quiet and cool
  • Stop all vigorous physical activity at least 3 hours before bedtime
  • Avoid bright lights, computers and video games during the pre-sleep period
  • Carve a time slot prior to bedtime for calm activities and relaxation 

Knee ligament Injuries
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries are rising among young patients less than 20 years old, middle age patients over 40 years old, and females — 129,000 Americans are affected each year.

What is the ACL? 
The ACL is a ligament in the central part of the knee and it is primarily responsible for controlling the sliding of the femur bone on the tibia. Once torn, it has a poor capacity to heal on its own, but may leave individuals with a feeling of knee instability. 

Do I need my ACL fixed? 
It’s up to you and your doctor. Depending on your pre-injury activity level, ACL reconstruction may not be necessary. Having a torn ACL and not getting it repaired does not necessarily mean you can’t return to sports. However, most athletes involved in sports like football, soccer and basketball are unable to return to sport after tearing the ACL and require reconstruction to return to athletics. 

How long until I can get back to my activity?

After your ACL is reconstructed, you will require 4–6 months (sometimes longer) of focused rehabilitation, usually with a skilled therapist or athletic trainer. 

Can I prevent this from happening? 

Yes! ACL injury prevention programs work and have shown to decrease the incidence of ACL tear by approximately 30%. We’ve adopted these prevention techniques, and we hold an annual ACL prevention clinic for athletic trainers and coaches. 

Nutrition for athletes

Athletes require adequate calories to fuel their sport and promote overall health, but not all calories are created equal. Calories that come from healthy food provide the explosive energy needed for sports. Calories from junk food result in poor performance. Healthy carbohydrates, lean proteins and healthy fats are all important for athletes.

The mix of nutrients as well as the timing of meals and snacks are both important. Regular meals as well as fueling up about one and a half hours before a workout or game and a half hour after is best.

Five recovery snacks: 

  • Dried fruit, nuts and dry cereal
  • Greek yogurt with fruit and granola.
  • Glass of skim milk and fresh fruit
  • Whole grain toast and a scrambled egg
  • Whole grain crackers with hummus and veggies. 

Five recovery meals: 

  • Whole grain toast, eggs and fruit
  • Oatmeal with added nut butter, apples, raisins and a glass of milk
  • Stir fry with rice, chicken and vegetables
  • Bran muffin and a smoothie made with banana, berries and powdered milk.
  • Wrap with black beans, grated cheese, peppers, corn, salsa and avocado. 

Female athletes need carbohydrates, calcium, vitamin D and plenty of water. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, females need at least: 

  • 1000-1300 mg/day of Calcium
  • 400-800 IU/day of Vitamin D
  • 60-90 mcg/day of Vitamin K
  • 1.2-1.7 g/kg/day of Protein (15-20% of daily calories)
  • 6-10 g/kg/day of Carbohydrates (55-65% of daily calories)
  • <25% of daily calories should come from Fats 

Preventing sports injuries
An athlete who takes the time to properly warm up and take preventative approaches to athletics has a greater chance of not sustaining injuries. 

Stretching, weight lifting and plyometrics can prepare an individual for higher levels of activities and are great if you exercise at a recreational level or if you exercise on a more competitive level. Stretching helps lengthen the muscle and improves range of motion, weight lifting helps strengthen muscles which could help when more stress is applied to them, and plyometrics can help your muscles move in a faster period of time. 

Basically, preventative medicine is a rather simple topic that can be overlooked at times. Taking the time to properly prepare the body allows you to take on more activities and be ready for more stress. 

Sports injury clinic
From August through November, we offer a sports injury clinic every Saturday morning at 7 a.m. at Mercy Health - St. Vincent Medical Center. It’s open to all athletes — high school juniors and seniors, college athletes, and weekend warriors!

Mercy Health - St. Vincent Medical Center

Medical Office Building #1
2409 Cherry Street, Suite 10
Toledo, OH 43608

Strength training 
Strength training helps you become faster and stronger, and it helps you meet the demands of your sports. It also reduces the risk of disease or aliments. Win-win. 

Conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, obesity, back pain and even depression can be reduced if not prevented. For example, as you age the bones in your body become more porous and weak. Incorporating proper strength training on a routine basis creates a weight on the body that it needs to adapt to. The bones become stronger and less porous, which can increase balance and reduce the chance of falls or injuries. 

Exercise techniques such as isometric, isotonic and isokinetic are great for strength training. General weight lifting exercises such as bench press, bicep curls, tricep dips and shoulder dips are great upper body exercises, while squats, leg curls, leg extensions and leg presses are optimal for the lower body. 

But just doing these exercises isn’t enough. Know that different sports require different demands, so it’s important to have a routine and plan in place.