How to help our athletes return to the playing field- safely!
The take-away from this: to remind coaches that getting back into “sport” shape is a gradual buildup and requires a period of recovery in between training sessions.
More Sports & Participation Numbers
Due to warmer weather, lower number of cases, more available vaccines, we will (hopefully) see:
- More teams returning to the playing field
- More athletes retuning to play (increase in participation)
Why does this matter…
COVID Impacts on Physical Activity
- COVID-19 created restrictions such as the closure of schools and parks, cancellation of sports and activity classes.
- This prevented many individuals from achieving their recommended levels of physical activity (PA).
- Many of our athletes might be included in that group for the past year+-
Being sedentary can lead to many health risks…
** Learn more about the impacts of COVID on our fitness and how to combat them at our Healthy Athlete Webinar on April 24th 10-11am.
Returning to Sports
- Its imperative that our athletes return to playing their sport (for their overall health and enjoyment) HOWEVER, we need to make sure they are doing it SAFELY.
- Returning to a sport (exercising too much too quickly) can cause injuries to our athletes.
There are a variety of common sports injuries that range in severity from minor to major.
Below is a list of just a few injuries that can occur when someone rushed back to sport/exercising:
- Fractured or Broken Bones
- Heat Illness
- Overuse injuries
Although sometimes injuries are unavoidable, much can be done to decrease an athlete’s risk of sport-related injury:
- Proper sports training,
- Physical conditioning,
- Living a healthy/active lifestyle
These can help athletes to stay injury free so that they can perform optimally.
Here are some tips for coaches before, at the beginning and during season to get our athletes back into shape!
Before the season!
- Encourage athletes to participate in activity NOW before they return!
- Its as simple as walking every day- Have them join a local walking club!
- They can also bike, hike, run, and do at home workouts (using our fitness dashboard, Fit 5 or At home Fitness Challenge), or even practice their sport in the backyard or at a park
- Holding a virtual meeting with your team anyways?
- Include a fitness aspect- even if that is just talking about what they did THAT week to stay active and prepare for their sport
- Make a challenge out of it to see who can move everyday
At the beginning of the season!
- Start the “season” early
- Use the first few weeks to get everyone back into shape
- Pre- season walking club or fitness club- offer yoga and other light exercises
- Take it slow
- (Especially if none of these above options can be done!)
- Remind athletes to take it slow and to pace themselves- They will be eager to start where they left off pre-COVID
- Provide plenty of water breaks
- Add longer breaks in between activity/ drills
- Gradually increase activity level
- Modify drills and or scrimmages
- Ex. Flag football: create a field smaller
- Modify event/ activity
- Ex. Track: walk the 100M or jog 50M walk 50M
- Modify drills and or scrimmages
- Remind them about form!
- Yes sport form! Whether its how to hit a softball, swimming techniques, or running form, its been awhile since some athletes have played! Plus form is the first thing to go when we get tired!
- Add Conditioning
- Add some exercises into the practice routine (starting slow/ with low intensity exercises)
- Encourage them to be active outside of practice
- Its important for the body to rest but overtime they can and should gradually build up the days they are being active.
- What they could do: Have them do a short walk (even around the back yard/house) to get some blood flowing to the muscles followed by some light stretching!
- Encourage balanced nutrition
- to ensure athletes get nutrients that help maintain a healthy weight, reduce strain on joints, prevent cramping/ dehydration and aid performance and recovery.
- Incorporate proper warm-up and cool-down
- Warm-ups should include aerobic activities and dynamic stretching (stretching while moving). Evidence shows that static stretching (stationary stretching) decreases performance and increases risk of injuries.
- Cool-downs should gradually decrease the intensity of the activity and set the stage for recovery. This is an ideal time for static stretches.
Resources for Athletes:
- Fitness Dashboard: https://sites.google.com/view/athlete-fitness/
- Fit 5: https://resources.specialolympics.org/health/fitness/fit-5
- At home fitness challenge: https://www.specialolympicsma.org/covid-19-and-return-to-play-resources/
Resources for Coaches: