Welcome to a New Football Season

Every season begins anew with a select few able to raise their arms in victory on the last day of the season. Preparation is key to success says LPF columnist Eric Kohn.

Weclome to a new football season

by Eric Kohn

Welcome to another football season!  The best season of all.  The time of hard work and preparation for a successful season.  This is the time of year that every football fan has hope and optimism for their favorite team.  As an athlete, this is the time of the year your body feels the best, different than later in the season when we have bumps, bruises, aches, and pains from the game the week before. The temperatures are starting to cool down at night and the glow of the field lights on Friday attracts us as fans like moths to a porch light.  I am excited thinking about it starting again…the football season.

Like last season, I will have a column in each issue on different sports medicine topics relating to our passion….football.   I am often asked this question in the clinic. “How can athletes best prepare for the upcoming season?”  So with that question in mind, this week’s article is a list of tips and reminders to set you up for success this season on the field.

1. Drink more water.  It is that simple.  It is true that our body is 60% water but more importantly our muscles are 75% water.  When we grind through long and hot practices we can lose a significant amount of water.  A quick and inexpensive way to combat cramping and water loss is to just replenish with water.  Remember to be drinking water throughout the day, this will be more beneficial than drinking the full gallon jug of water after practice. Check the color of your urine to confirm you are drinking enough, it should be clear. 

2. Sports drink consumption.  When we sweat we lose not only water but also electrolytes, especially sodium.  Regardless of the brand of sports drink, they can be beneficial after hard practices to replenish the electrolytes.  The sodium will also help prevent cramping and the carbohydrates will add quick energy for the body.

3. Proper nutrition.  This is not the article to go into details about performance nutrition but just remember two things.  To get the best output you must put in the best and that really applies in this situation. Quality sources of protein, carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats should make up your daily intake.  Finally, you are expending a lot of calories with your hard work in practice, be prepared to eat a little more than usual to avoid weight loss during training camp.  

4. Sleep.  This could be one of the most important keys to your season.  When you sleep your body recovers and heals itself.  When you are not sleeping enough your performance will suffer and the small injuries will not heal and can become chronic ones.  Believe me, you can do everything else right but without adequate 8-10 hours of sleep, it will catch up to you and impact performance and recovery. 

5. Dynamic stretching.  The controversy of stretching and its benefits will go on forever and there may be some merit to question the effectiveness of static or hold stretching but dynamic or movement stretching continues to be supported in literature.  When we talk about dynamic stretching we mean stretching with movements such as a walking lunge with overhead stretch.  During dynamic stretching your body moves through functional movements that will take place during your sport and then gives a little stretch emphasis at your end range of movements

6. Proper fitting equipment.  This point can sometimes go overlooked.  In our effort to look good or “drip”.  “Drip”, I just found out this week from my teenage son is slang for looking good or having swagger. We must never stop learning I guess!  Improper fitting of equipment or not having all straps of buckles tight can and will lead to injuries.  The shoulder pads and helmet are made to fit snug and properly, your training staff will make sure it is fitted to you.  Don’t jeopardize your season to “look better” rather than being safe.

7. Finally, meet and become familiar with your sports medicine training staff.  They are there to make sure your season is as successful as it can be by keeping you healthy and out of the training room.  Introduce yourself to them, discuss previous injuries, and how they healed or are healing.  They may want to create a treatment plan to keep you healthy.  They may address muscle weaknesses by adding some exercises or lack of flexibility by adding specific individual dynamic stretching.

Well there you have it, a few easy rules to follow.  If you need help with any of them talk to your coaches or sports medicine staff.  These are simple steps that can make a world of difference in keeping you on the field.  Good luck with your first games of the season!

Eric is a Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist, Doctor of Physical Therapy, and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.  He practices at St Cloud Orthopedics in Central Minnesota and is an adjunct professor at The College of St. Benedict/St John’s University.