Important Tips to Keep Players Safe From Concussions

concussions_postEvery coach in every sport has athletes at risk for concussions. A concussion is a brain injury caused by a blow to the head. Concussions are certainly more prevalent in high impact sports like football and hockey. But concussions can happen in any sport where athletes are at risk for uncontrolled collisions or falls.

Preventing Concussions -We can help prevent concussions by being vigilant about creating a safe environment for our athletes. Be aware of the surroundings in terms of walls, equipment, slippery courts or fields, or other environmental factors which could increase the risk of injury. Make sure all equipment is worn properly. Make sure all rules are followed in practice and competition. Keep an eye open for ‘out of control’ games where play is getting dangerously physical in violation of the rules. And, respond immediately to any head injury.

Detecting Concussions - As we supervise our athletes it is important to remember that concussions do not always involve a devastating blow. Depending on the athlete and the circumstances, even a light blow to the head can result in a concussion. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that we look for these signs and symptoms in our athletes:

  • Dazed or stunned

  • Confused about assignment or position

  • Forgets sports plays

  • Unsure of game, score, or opponent

  • Moves clumsily

  • Answers questions slowly

  • Loses consciousness (even briefly)

  • Shows behavior or personality changes

  • Can’t recall events prior to hit or fall

  • Can’t recall events after hit or fall

  • Headache or “pressure” in head

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Balance problems or dizziness

  • Double or blurry vision

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Sensitivity to noise

  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy

  • Concentration or memory problems

  • Confusion

  • Does not “feel right”

Responding to Concussions -If  our athletes display any of the above signs and symptoms we need to respond immediately. The CDC recommends that coaches take the following steps to respond to an athlete with a concussion:

  • Remove the athlete from play.

  • Ensure that the athlete is evaluated right away by an appropriate health care professional. Do not try to judge the severity of the injury yourself.

  • Inform the athlete’s parents or guardians about the possible concussion.

  • Allow the athlete to return to play only with permission from a health care professional with experience in evaluating for concussions.

Second Impact Syndrome - The first concussion is bad enough. But one often overlooked aspect of concussions is second impact syndrome. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “A repeat concussion that occurs before the brain recovers from the first—usually within a short period of time (hours, days, or weeks)—can slow recovery or increase the likelihood of having long-term problems. In rare cases, repeat concussions can result in brain swelling, permanent brain damage, and even death. This more serious condition is called second impact syndrome.”

Second impact syndrome is a special concern for highly committed athletes who want to play very soon after sustaining a concussion. This is where the coach has to step up and do the right thing. The CDC advises, “Keep athletes with known or suspected concussions from play until they have been evaluated and given permission to return to play by a health care professional with experience in evaluating concussions. Remind your athletes: ‘It’s better to miss one game than the whole season.’”

Getting Educated - We can help protect our athletes by getting educated about concussions. We can never completely eliminate the possibility of this injury, but we can reduce the risk by knowing how to prevent it, detect it, respond to it, and protect athletes with a history of concussions.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Elevating Athletes for this article.

Q&A: What are the Best Foods to Sustain Energy During Tournaments?

best_tournament_foods_postSustaining energy during a regular game can be difficult. However, when an athlete is involved in an entire weekend of tournament play it can be downright impossible. Hockey mom, Wendy, asks our expert, Mitzi Dulan, a registered dietitian and the team nutritionist for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals, for advice on the best fuel for tournament play.

Wendy Asks: My child plays in a lot of tournaments throughout the season. By the end of a long weekend he is really burnt out and lacking energy. While I know there are energy gels and other supplements that we can give him to provide quick energy, I would prefer to find natural alternatives that would not only help him during tournaments but also be a great addition to his current diet.  Do you have any nutritional ideas that can give him sustained energy throughout these energy sapping weekends as well as the rest of the season?

Answer: Tournaments can definitely be exhausting for both the parents and athletes. Maintaining optimal energy levels is extremely important when your kids are playing several games throughout a weekend. Make sure that you have some quick and easy high energy snacks to eat between games to help recover and maintain blood sugar levels. Even when there is a concession stand, it is usually low-quality fuel for athletes, so planning ahead and packing these snacks to have on hand is always a good idea. I also suggest that athletes consume sports drinks during tournaments to help maintain a good hydration status. Here are some of my personal favorites for high energy, all-natural fuel:

  • Peanut butter and honey sandwiches

  • Trail mix (make your own: raw almonds with dried cranberries or cherries)

  • Energy bar like a Clif Nectar, Lara Bar, or Pure Bar

  • Fresh fruit

  • Greek yogurt

  • Low-fat organic chocolate milk

Best of luck Wendy and thanks for your question!

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Mitzi Dulan for her expert advice.

Q&A: Are There Better Fueling Options Than Energy Drinks?

better-fueling-options-postThe sheer number of energy drinks on the market today is staggering. There are so many options, it might seem as though they should be an integral part of an athlete’s diet. Hockey mom, Wendy, questions the use of such drinks for her son. In the following article, Dr. Christopher Mohr, nutrition spokesperson and consultant, provides Wendy his best advice for nutritionally sound ways to fuel her son’s growing body.

Wendy asks: A lot of kids on my son’s team use energy drinks, such as Red Bull, to help sustain their energy level during a game. I know this is not the healthiest alternative, but I am wondering if there are better options for quick energy. I find this is particularly important during tournaments when a player is going all day and does not have time to digest a full meal. What would you suggest?

Answer: It is true that energy drinks are hot right now. In fact, there are over 600 options on the market. However, it is important to question if they are guaranteed to boost performance…or shrink your wallet, at over per can.

Energy drinks are loaded with a multitude of ingredients, all purported to have different effects on the body. The mainstay of energy drinks is usually caffeine, typically about the same as amount as one cup of coffee (with some as high as three cups) or nearly double that of a 12 oz soda.

Caffeine is technically a drug and it is addicting. Relying on it for energy will result in continually needing more to get the same feeling. It can also increase heart rate, elevate anxiety and cause insomnia. None of these effects will help performance. In fact, they could hurt it. Furthermore, if an athlete consumes too much caffeine, it can ultimately be very dangerous.

Energy drinks are fairly high in sugar as well. Sugar is a carbohydrate, so it can provide energy but it will be short lived, as it is in and out of the bloodstream rather quickly. The right types of carbohydrates are necessary for optimal performance - sugar is not the right type.

With such a variety of drinks on the market, it is impossible to summarize each ingredient in each product. Most have high levels of B vitamins, purported to boost energy while others have amino acids, herbs, vitamins and minerals, each with their own unique properties.

With all this said, the truth is only food gives the real nutrients and energy athletes need. In essence, food is high-octane fuel for the body. To perform at your peak, you need to feed your body what it needs.

If your son truly wants an energy boost, he needs real foods. This includes lean protein, such as chicken, fish and lean red meat; whole grain carbohydrates, including oats, whole grain bread and whole-wheat pasta; fruits and vegetables; and healthy fats, like olive oil, avocado and egg yolks. Many of these options are not practical during tournament play, but it gives the overall idea of a healthy daily diet.

During tournaments, try fresh or dried fruit, homemade trail mix (dried fruit and small amount of raw nuts), yogurt or cheese sticks. If there is a long time between play, have your player eat something more substantial, such as peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter and banana or a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread. The key is to get some quality carbohydrates and lean protein throughout the day.

Editor’s Note: A special thank you to Dr. Christopher Mohr, PhD RD for this helpful advice.

Keeping Your Athlete Safe

keeping-your-athlete-safe-postAs a parent, you play an important role in the safety of your youth athlete. These tips offer helpful advice as you strive for an injury-free season.

- Be pro-active about safety issues. Learn about the risks posed by the sport your child plays.

- Insist that coaches receive training in first-aid and injury prevention and bring a properly stocked first-aid kit to all games and practices.

- Guard against overuse injuries by encouraging your child to take part in a variety of sports throughout the year

- Demand safe fields and equipment, such as anchored goals and emergency telephones.

- Ask about the weather policy of your child’s league or club. If it doesn’t have one, adopt your own.

- Protect your child from a dangerous coach. Ask your club to run background checks on coaches.

- Get your child’s league or club to set up a risk management committee

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Elevating Athletes for this article.

What You Should Know About Asthma

know-about-asthma-postAccording to WebMD, nearly 6.5 million children suffer from asthma.  The incidents of the disorder, which is characterized by difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and wheezing, has nearly doubled since 1980 in individuals under the age of 18.  While scientists race to discover the reasons for the sharp increase, many child athletes suffer with the condition.  The following article offers tips for helping child athletes live and play with asthma.

1. Be aware of asthma

Coaches of any sport requiring substantial lung capacity should be aware of asthma as a potential problem for their athletes. In addition to watching our known asthmatic athletes closely, we need to stay alert for undiagnosed asthma. In particular, look for well-conditioned athletes who occasionally appear slower, mentally sluggish, or out of wind. They might actually be having an asthmatic episode without being aware of it. Suggest a doctor visit for these athletes.

2. Get educated - and be prepared

Asthma can be managed effectively with a team approach. Poll your athletes and/or parents to determine whether any of your athletes have asthma. Then work with the athlete and parent to create an asthma management plan. This plan should cover what medicines the athlete should take if under duress and when help should be called. In addition, coaches should be aware of conditions that can trigger asthma attacks so that steps can be taken to help the athlete avoid problems.

3. Be supportive

It is vitally important for coaches to support their asthmatic athletes. Many athletes will try to cover up their asthma for fear of losing their position or being viewed as a ‘health liability.’

If the Jackie Joyner Kersey’s of the world hide their asthma, what about the average athlete who wants to make a good impression? He or she is likely to hide or ignore symptoms to avoid looking weak or out of shape. An athlete hiding asthma can end up with a serious attack leading to hospitalization or even death. This is always tragic because it is so unnecessary.

It is imperative that coaches work with their athletes to help them manage their asthma. When we become partners with our asthmatic athletes, we not only keep them safe, we help them perform to the best of their ability. There are countless highly successful athletes playing at all levels of sport today. Most of them are achieving their best with the help of a caring and supportive coach.

Editors Note: A special thanks to Elevating Athletes for this article.

Should Kids Play with Pain?

play_with_pain_post1After a tough practice it is normal for muscles to be sore or tight.  Pain is a regular part of participating in sports, however, with a growing number of youth athletes suffering from over use injuries, it is important to ask, if it healthy for kids to be in pain when they are taking part in sporting events. The following article discusses why your should never ignore your player’s pain and what it might be telling you.

Although kids are naturally flexible and limber, their muscles and bones are still developing and require proper care. Pain prior to a game is not normal for young players. It can represent anything from a minor sprain to a fractured bone. Pain is the body’s way of saying “Stop!” It is not unusual for a child to be sore after a game, but it is unusual for the pain from a prior game to still be a factor in the next.

In professional sports, it is common to hear stories of athletes playing with pain. However, young players lack the associated team doctors and trainers who help professional athletes make informed decisions. Youth players also lack the understanding of the consequences of playing with an injury. Kids only get one body and no childhood sports event is worth risking a lifetime of problems.

Is Your Stomach Ready for The Big Game?

stomach_pains_postEven if you’ve had the exceptional training, what you put in your mouth prior to practice or a game can make or break your performance. Proper eating habits on game day are simply key to your success.

If, during a game, players find themselves:

  • Feeling sluggish

  • Experiencing muscle cramps

  • Getting nauseous

  • Feeling lightheaded

  • Running out of energy

  • Playing at a lower level than previous games

Then, eating the right types of foods and at the right times may be factors. It takes time for the human body to convert food into energy, so a quick snack just before a game will have little impact. However, a healthy meal, eaten several hours before, may have a large impact on performance. Players should:

  • Eat a healthy meal 3-6 hours before a game.

  • Eat a light snack 1-2 hours before a game.

  • Drink plenty of water.

Players should avoid:

  • Foods or drinks with high sugar or caffeine content to avoid the energy highs and lows that follow.

  • Greasy or starchy foods (most fast food).

  • Foods or drinks that can make you nauseous such as citrus drinks or milk.

A little “stomach planning” before a game can have a big impact at the game. When a player is in the car on the way to a competition, it is just too late to prepare the body with the energy it will require.

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Sports Esteem for the above article.

Prepare Your Child with Nutrition and Rest

sports_nutrition_and_rest_postOne of the most important aspects of youth sports is having the young ones prepared with proper rest and nutrition. To make sure your child is ready to have fun and compete to the best of his or her ability, follow some of the following tips.

Before starting a game or practice, kids need to have their bodies ready with fuel and adequate rest. Unfortunately, trying to fix these issues just before game time won’t work. Food takes time to digest before it can be used as fuel.

With too little rest or poor nutrition, a child’s performance can vary considerably from past efforts. During a game, a player needs lots of energy. To produce this energy, the body needs the right kinds of food.

Foods high in complex carbohydrates contain energy that is easier for the body to use. Foods containing protein are essential for proper growth and development but are harder for the body to quickly convert to energy. Foods high in complex carbohydrates include:

  • Pasta

  • Breads

  • Rice

  • Oatmeal

  • Beans

  • Potatoes

  • Bananas

Although these foods are all good for producing energy, too much of a good thing can cause a player to feel sluggish during a game. Players should avoid eating big meals too close to game time. To be effective and to allow time for digestion, larger meals should be eaten at least three to five hours before a game. Within two hours of a game, players should have just a light snack that is high in energy (carbohydrates) and easy to digest.

After a game, players should eat a snack to restore lost energy and wait approximately one hour before eating a full meal. Excessive fatigue after a game may be a sign of improper nutrition before a game.

Water and Sports Drinks

Water is an important part of the energy process. Players should drink as much water as they can before, during, and after a game without causing stomach discomfort.

Sports drinks have a limited amount of value when players are not sweating a large amount. However, if players are sweating enough to lose body weight, then a sports drink may provide some benefit.

Nutritional Supplements

The use of caffeine, nutrition bars, and other items that promise quick energy usually indicate insufficient attention to other areas such as rest, nutrition, and exercise. A rested player in good physical condition should not require these energy shortcuts. Other supplements that promise muscle development or extra strength typically have side effects and should be used only after consulting a doctor.

Like so many other things about sports, there are no shortcuts when it comes to nutrition. A consistent diet of good foods in balanced meals, combined with exercise, is the best way to have sufficient energy during a game or practice.

Nutrition Timelines

Proper nutrition and rest need to be monitored prior to a sports event. The following timelines can help plan eating and resting before any heavy physical activity.

Afternoon or Evening Event

  • Good night’s rest (day before)

  • Healthy meal (3-5 hours before)

  • Lots of water

  • Light snack (1-2 hours before)

  • Game or practice

Morning Event

  • Healthy dinner and good night’s rest (day before)

  • Lots of water

  • Moderate snack (1-2 hours before)

  • Game or practice

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Sports Esteem for the above article.

Q&A: How to Help Your Player Get Bigger and Stronger

food_teenager_postBecky asks: “My son is 15 years old and is playing hockey (midgets).  He is 5’7 weighs 145 and is trying to figure out how to make himself stronger.  I would like to know what he can eat, pick up weights or what, so that when he gets hit he won’t get hurt.  He is tall but slender.”

Answer: Great questions!  First, he needs to take in more calories.  Gaining muscle requires a combination of taking in more calories than your body burns off and weight lifting.  Remember too, that at 15 years old, if he hasn’t yet gone through puberty, when he does he’ll likely bulk up with the increase in hormones.  Think about calorie and nutrient dense foods to up his intake – nuts, dried fruit, yogurt, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, extra milk with each meal, and so on.  It only takes a few hundred extra calories each day to make big changes over time.  He won’t turn into the Hulk overnight, but baby steps will take him a long way.

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Chris Mohr for answering this question. Dr. Christopher Mohr, PhD RD is a nutrition spokesperson and consultant to a number of media outlets and corporations including Discovery Health Channel, The Dairy Council, Clif Bar, and Nordic Naturals. He is also the Sports Nutritionist for Under Armour’s TNP Training Council. For more information about Chris, please click here.

If you have a question, we would love to help. Please e-mail us and we will do our best to answer your question.

MRSA – What You Need to Know About This Superbug

staph_infection_image_postRecent outbreaks of MRSA, an especially virulent staph infection that can be fatal, have left many people worried about this “superbug” and how they can protect themselves and their children. Below you’ll find questions and answers about MRSA as well as tips for reducing your risk of infection.

What is MRSA?

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is a variation of the Staphylococcus bacteria that has developed a strong resistance to common antibiotics.

Why is it so dangerous?

MRSA is dangerous because the antibiotics typically used to treat bacterial infections don’t work against it, which makes it very difficult to treat.

Is the number of cases increasing?

A recent study found that the number of MRSA infections is much higher than officials thought, and it appears to be on the rise. The majority of cases continue to be in hospital settings where a concentrated number of sick people make it easy to pass infectious bacteria around. But experts say the infection is starting to spread out into the wider community. Crowded locations such as schools, jails, homeless shelters, locker rooms, and nursing homes are also high-risk areas for contracting MRSA and other infections.

Who is most at risk for contracting MRSA?

Though MRSA can infect anyone, the following groups of people are most likely to contract it:

  • people who have been recently hospitalized

  • the elderly

  • the very young

  • those with compromised immune systems

  • people who play contact sports

  • intravenous drug users

How do people get MRSA?

Like any bacterial infection, MRSA is passed through physical contact, either from person to person or person to an object, like a towel or a piece of sports equipment.

How is MRSA diagnosed?

The only way to be sure about an MRSA infection is to test the infected tissue. This is a lab test that usually takes a few days.

What is the treatment for MRSA?

Though MRSA is resistant to most antibiotics, there are a few that can still be effective against the infection. When it’s caught early, MRSA treatment is often successful. If it’s not diagnosed, however, it can spread rapidly and cause serious problems, including pneumonia and blood infection.

What are the symptoms of an MRSA infection?

MRSA infection can cause skin infections that look like pimples or boils and are red, swollen, painful, or have pus or other drainage. MRSA infections are often initially misdiagnosed as spider bites.

How can I reduce my chances of contracting MRSA or other infections?

Frequent, thorough hand washing is the absolute best way to reduce the chance of contracting MRSA. You can also reduce the risk of contracting MRSA by

  • covering all wounds and abrasions until they heal

  • avoiding contact with other people’s cuts, scrapes, and bandages

  • not sharing personal items such as towels, razors, sheets, or athletic equipment

  • regularly cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched areas such as doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, telephones, keyboards, and refrigerator and cabinet door handles

Should I be concerned if my child plays contact sports?

While it’s true that MRSA can spread quickly in groups of people who play contact sports, carefully following the above guidelines can help prevent the spread of MRSA. Make sure your child knows about the dangers of sharing personal items with teammates and friends, and encourage him to wash his hands frequently before, during, and after practice and games. You may also want to talk with your child’s coach or athletic director about what precautions are being taken to avoid the spread of MRSA.

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