Health and Wellness

Health and Wellness

Together, with pediatric sports medicine experts at Scottish Rite for Children, we are committed to providing information for your young athlete to excel on and off the court.

Explore the latest injury prevention and health tips provided by Scottish Rite for Children. With these tools, athletes are better prepared to advance to higher levels and to participate in sports throughout their lifetimes.

To learn more about pediatric sports medicine and injury prevention, please visit scottishriteforchildren.org/sports.

SAFETY AND INJURY PREVENTION TIPS

Provided by Scottish Rite for Children

Play the RITE Way with JJ Barea

Knee and ankle injuries are common in youth basketball and other sports. Poor motion and control in sport-specific movements can increase the risk of these injuries. Proper warm-up before you hit the court can help you prevent these injuries.

  • Injuries that are preventable are the ones that don’t involve another player or the ground. These are called overuse and non-contact injuries and mostly occur in the ankles and knees
  • Overuse Injuries – These occur from repetitive movements but can be worsened by performing jumping and running with poor form
  • Non-Contact Injuries – These injuries occur with sudden twists and stops when the body is not properly aligned. Good body alignment during activity requires good muscle coordination and body awareness

The Warm Up the RITE Way exercises for Hoop Camp and Development Camp were developed with the age and skills (beginner and advanced) of the athletes in mind. The exercises engage important muscle groups that should be active during play, therefore these exercises should be performed before any plans to hit the court. With time, the exercises can be progressed to be more difficult, but only after mastering the basic movements.

PREVENTING INJURIES

Some injuries happen suddenly, others happen over a period of time. Risk of both of these can be reduced. Studies have suggested that 65-85% of basketball injuries in young athletes are related to overuse. Learn more about overuse injuries and how to prevent them.

Research is showing that athletes are more successful and experience fewer injuries when they play multiple sports. Specialization often leads to training multiple days in a row and competing year round without breaks, these have shown to cause overuse injuries and lead to early burnout. Mix in other sports to encourage diversity of skills and athleticism and keep the focus on fun until 12-14 years of age.

Running and jumping can put stress on a growth plate just below the knee cap. Pain can develop because the muscles and tendons pull on the soft part of the developing bone. Fortunately, this often resolves when it is recognized early. The treatment is focused on resting and limiting the activity that causes the symptoms.

Running and repeated movements in sports can cause the heel to become painful in young athletes, typically around 8-10 years old. Heel pain in one or both feet during or after activity is a symptom of Sever’s disease which is the inflammation of a growth plate in the heel. With proper rest, stretching and sometimes adding a heel cup in the shoe, this problem resolves without long-term complications.

Balance Training

Stability, or balance, requires a complex coordination of several body systems. The balance required in basketball is considered “dynamic” because the athletes are always on the move. Each of the systems that help with balance can be improved with training. Dynamic balance training includes a combination of floor surface changes, movements, visual distractions, and other techniques. Improved balance has been shown to be associated with a lower risk of injury, therefore, young athletes should learn why and how to perform these exercises.

Ankle and knee injuries are common in youth basketball. To help prevent these injuries, work on skills like balance and coordination. Here are four types of exercises that improve stability.

  • Strengthening – Repetition of resistance exercises helps the muscles in the lower leg improve muscle strength as well as improves the athlete’s ability to control these muscles during activity. Body weight resistance is sufficient for most young athletes. Try calf raises and ankle pumps.
  • Mobility – Stretching before and after activity keeps muscles and ligaments flexible which helps them respond to sudden changes in direction without an injury. Try runners (calf) stretches and ankle circles.
  • Balance – Activities that challenge the athlete to maintain stability while performing a task or standing on an uneven surface prepare the athlete for unexpected movements during sports. Try standing on one foot while bounce passing with a partner.
  • Proprioception – The body’s ability to respond to a potential injury requires fast messages from the ankle to the brain and from the brain to the muscles to act quickly protect the ankle. Proprioception exercises enhance the ability to recognize and respond to an unstable position quickly. Try standing on one leg with eyes closed.

Joints are designed to create stability in certain positions and mobility in others. Extremes at either end can cause injury. Exercises should include both flexibility and strengthening, one without the other can leave an athlete vulnerable to injury.

Basketball and other sports challenge an athletes’ body with random, sudden movements. From changing directions to colliding with another player, an athlete has to respond to abrupt forces. Practicing dynamic balance activities can improve strength and coordination to reduce the risk of injury during these unpredictable moments. An example of a dynamic balance activity is to stand on one leg and perform activities with a ball, check out our how-to videos on Ball Slams and Around the World.

Nutrition

The energy athletes need for practices and competition is supplied by the food they eat. If you put mud in the gas tank of a car, it does not run properly because it lacks the correct fuel. Athletes must supply their bodies with the correct “fuel” or nutrition to compete at their best and help prevent injury. The more energy, or fuel, an athlete uses, the more they need to consume to keep up with their needs.

Use these tips to plan ahead so that your athletes have nutritious choices throughout the day to prepare for a workout or competition.

  • Pack a water bottle for sipping throughout the day and during and after the event.
  • Take foods that help hydrate (i.e.: grapes, pears, oranges, yogurts).
  • Pack snacks with complex carbohydrates and protein to provide nourishment throughout the school day and after the event (i.e.: chocolate milk, apple slices with string cheese, trail mix).
  • Bring snacks with more easily digested carbohydrates for snacks right before and during the event (i.e.: fresh or dried fruit, applesauce, pretzels, fig bars).

Include your kids in the planning and shopping for their meals and snacks. Learning healthy habits early can carry on beyond youth sports and into college and adulthood where they are responsible for their own food and nutrition choices.

There are foods that make you strong, foods that make you fast, foods that make you sharp in the mind. Some foods make you sluggish by filling you up and not providing the right kinds of energy to help you perform. Here are a few simple tips to get you started on the right path to fueling your young athlete

  • Choose items from 2 food groups for each snack and 3 food groups for each meal.
  • Vary the colors of fruits and vegetables to get an assortment of nutrients.
  • Learn to read food labels.

Help your young athlete understand a few key sections:

  • Look at the serving size and be aware of how many servings are in the package.
  • Choose items that have some protein and carbohydrates, a little saturated fat and zero trans-fat.
  • Steer away from products with a lot of added sugar. As a general rule, it is best to avoid foods that list sugar as one of the top three ingredients.

Take time to learn why the athlete has chosen a vegetarian diet. Find food sources to add variety to ensure nutrient and caloric needs are met. Improper or insufficient fueling can pose some risks for young athletes. Download more information here.

Hydration

Basketball is a demanding sport often played in a warm environment, whether indoors or outdoors. Together, this causes young athletes to build up heat in their body. Unlike adults, children may not sweat enough to keep themselves cool. This makes hydration even more important. Drinking water before, during and after play is recommended for athletes of all ages. Read more to learn how to plan ahead for proper hydration.

Recognizing and responding to signs and symptoms of heat illness is critically important. These may be present even when body temperature is not elevated. Quick cooling in an ice bath is recommended.

  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive thirst
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Light-headedness
  • Prepare ice and water before training
  • Gradually increase physical activity at the beginning of the season
  • Don’t train while you are sick or have a fever
  • Limit caffeinated and sugary beverages
  • Continue conditioning in the off-season

This is dependent on whether the intensity is high or low. With low intensity events, drinking when thirsty should be enough. With high intensity events, like basketball or in very hot temperatures, here are some guidelines.

HIGH-INTENSITY EVENT WITH OR WITHOUT HIGH TEMPERATURES

Before

  • Water throughout the day, as needed
  • 16-24 oz. of fluid 3-4 hours before
  • 8-12 oz. of fluid 10-15 minutes before

During

  • 4-8 oz. of fluid every 15-20 minutes

After

  • 16-24 oz. of fluid per pound of body weight lost during the event

In most situations, water is the best choice for hydrating young athletes. Sports drinks are only recommended when participating in activities:

  • In very hot or humid environments.
  • With high intensity for longer than 60 minutes.
  • That are all day or back-to-back events like sports camps, tournaments and double-headers.

When water isn’t enough, reach for a sports drink with a good mix of water, electrolytes and carbohydrates. For many young athletes, 30-60 grams of carbohydrates in an hour is all they need. You can find this information on any standard nutrition label. Otherwise, stick with water, start early and drink often. Watch this video to learn more.

Guideline-Based Safety

Rules and guidelines are thoughtfully designed to meet several goals. From establishing a shared understanding of the competition to promoting a fair environment, rules prevent injuries. Guidelines promote safety continue to evolve as more research is available.

In collaboration with the NBA, USA Basketball, has developed guidelines that encourage young athletes should participate in multiple sports through high school. This advice is consistent with growing evidence in pediatric sports medicine research to delay specialization in any sport, including basketball. Studies have found this behavior to correlate with lower injury rates and more healthy playing time for NBA players.

Because development varies greatly in children, playing “up” and “down” can increase the risk of injury to themselves or others. Until the age of 13, or the beginning of 9th grade, USA Basketball recommends that teams and play is organized by age. Non-organized basketball play with mixed age groups requires vigilant adult supervision to ensure smaller children are not challenged beyond their abilities. Studies suggest that injuries are more likely in non-organized play.

Flagrant fouls and aggressive play increase the risk of injury. More importantly, permitting these behaviors distracts from an important focus for young athletes, having fun. Keep the environment positive to reduce the risk of injury and early burnout.