COLUMBUS, Miss. -- The upcoming school year will bring opportunities for high school students to participate in new activities, including sports. But, before starting sports, players need to be sure that they are physically fit for the game.
A new athlete typically has two major physical concerns, according to Steve McCorkle, who teaches exercise physiology at Mississippi University for Women. The first is being strong or healthy enough to compete without injury or issue, and the second is being strong, healthy and skilled enough to compete at their goal level.
Some athletes just want to compete for enjoyment, while others are driven to win. The level of conditioning, strength, and skill required, as well as the risk for injury, are highly specific to each sport, he explained.
“Injury prevention is a very important issue for participants at all levels of sports. It is something we take very seriously,” said McCorkle.
Youth typically are required to have an annual sports physical before participating in school-related athletics. McCorkle thinks that this is particularly important as the physical evaluates age-appropriate concerns and normal development. For participation in recreational sports, this check-up is usually sufficient provided that it includes a discussion of physical activity habits. Higher level competition would require a sport physical designed to assess risk for that sport.
“All sports carry risks. For example, football is typically higher risk than basketball due to the intentional contact in every play, but we have all seen some high impact collisions on the basketball court as well,” McCorkle said.
Contact sports typically have a higher risk than non-contact sports, although some sports that are meant to have limited contact can cross that line, McCorkle suggested. In addition to physical contact, the degree of stress on the body should be considered. Soccer, cross country running and tennis all include a fairly high level of impact, but soccer or tennis are much greater risk due to the explosive nature of the impact and violent changes in momentum.
According to McCorkle, the last concern that should be addressed is the amount of participation. A recreation league baseball player might play one game a week while a competitive baseball player might play two to three games during the week and a tournament on the weekend. Due to increased exposure, as well as increased potential for overuse injuries, the competitive player is at greater risk than the recreational player.
Most participants in athletics will never incur a life-changing injury, according to McCorkle. The main thing to remember is that the stronger and healthier an athlete is, the lower his or her risk for most injuries. McCorkle said being healthy and active with a balance of activities (including sports if you enjoy them) keeps your body strong and fit.
Along with an annual check-up, these tips can help minimize the risk of any problems.
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