Preparing Student Athletes for the New School Year
For most of the Miami area, August signifies the time for students and their parents to start preparing for another school year. If your child is a student-athlete, there’s more to the preparation than getting new clothes, shoes, and school supplies.
They’ll also need to prepare their minds and bodies for another year of competition.
Of course, most school sports require a student to get a physical examination and fill out other medical authorization forms before competing. So getting that appointment scheduled as soon as possible is essential. Kristopher J. Paultre, M.D., family medicine and primary care sports medicine specialist with the University of Miami Sports Medicine Institute, recommends seeing your child’s primary care provider or another trusted health care provider for this essential checkup.
“Your child’s primary care provider is going to know your child and their medical history a lot better,” he says. “If your child has any unique concerns or challenges, your primary physician is going to be much better equipped for identifying those before competition.”
Sports physicals are an opportunity for some kids to get a checkup who haven’t had one for several years.
“They can be good for both the students and their parents, as I’ve detected health problems in kids during these checkups that I never would’ve found if they hadn’t come in for a physical.”
Handling prior injuries
If your child has had a concussion or another prior injury, this makes seeing a provider who knows your child’s medical history even more important.
“Injuries are assessed on a case-by-case basis, but there’s no question that having a prior concussion or another injury can make a student more susceptible to future injuries,” says Dr. Paultre. “That’s why seeing a doctor who knows your child’s injury history and can make an informed assessment is critical.”
The National Parent Teacher Association says there are other ways that parents can keep their student athletes safe.
One easy step is to meet with the coaches and check out the practice and game facilities. Coaches will often schedule a meeting with the parents before the beginning of the season. This can be an opportunity to evaluate the equipment and ask the coaches about their emergency action plan.
For some student athletes, the new school year isn’t just a chance for them to participate but to try to excel in their sport.
Dr. Paultre says parents and students should choose how to approach this carefully to ensure their kids’ success and avoid potential burnout or injury.
“When it comes to young student athletes, I encourage them to avoid sports specialization at early ages,” he says. “Kids are going to be better overall athletes if they do a variety of sports at first. Specializing at an early age can lead to burnout and repetitive motion injuries, such as young baseball pitchers throwing out their shoulders.”
Dr. Paultre adds that performance coaches can be fine for young athletes, but he suggests vetting the performance coach carefully, or asking your health care provider for a recommendation. “There are all kinds of sports science and performance specialists out there, and they may not all have the same level of experience and accreditation,” he says. “Ideally, it’s good to find somebody with a physical therapy or training background. I have several specialists that I specifically recommend to my patients.”
Ultimately, the goal for your student athlete is to stay safe and have fun competing in the sports they love. With the proper preparation and consultation with a trusted health care provider, they can spend the new school year doing exactly that.
Wyatt Myers is a contributing writer for the UHealth news site.