By Sarah Maninga, Tri-County Health Care Certified Athletic Trainer
The winter sports season continues to wind down and spring is right around the corner. It’s the time of year where athletes transition from the comfort of the gym to the sunshine of the outdoors. That is, if the snow ever melts! While athletes patiently wait for the warmth of spring to come, it’s a crucial time to prepare for the upcoming season. The month of March is not only a bridge between sports seasons, but also National Athletic Training Month! Sports Medicine Providers and Certified Athletic Trainers offer much more than just evaluating and treating injuries.
We can also help prevent injuries in the first place. But, how is that possible?
It all starts with strength and conditioning. Most of the people I work with use this for injury prevention. Muscle imbalances and weakness can lead to injuries, so it’s key to get athletes in the weight room in between seasons and in the summer to keep them injury-free. Coaches or physical education teachers open the weight room after school between seasons, and I stop in to help as much as I can.
This training isn’t just for athletes, however, it’s for people of all age groups and activity levels. Programs instead focus on each individuals’ goals and interests to establish a program they will benefit from. Progression will occur as the person is ready to ensure that they continue to see improvements and enhance their overall body strength. Studies show that lean muscle mass decreases as you age, which makes strength and conditioning even more important to your health. Improving balance can be vitally important to fall prevention.
The strength and conditioning programs for athletes expand in the summer months.
At the schools I work with – Wadena-Deer Creek, Menahga and Sebeka – athletes complete hour-long workouts in the weight room, three days a week. We train using a wide range of exercises that focus on the whole body and in addition to conditioning. A major injury we see at the high school level is anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, so we focus on hip and core strengthening along with proprioceptive exercises to try to prevent them. The conditioning exercises we do can range from sprints to plyometric circuit training.
We also do plenty of work on single leg balance exercises to prevent injuries to the ankles and knees, which are common injuries at the high school level. The shoulder is known to be an unstable joint, so we make strengthening it another area of focus.
For those without access to weight rooms, there are many options and tools at your disposal right in your own home. Soup cans or milk jugs can be used as weights while doing exercises. Stairs can be perfect for running up and down for conditioning or step up exercises. If you look around, your home has plenty to offer to assist with workouts!
You can even use your own body weight to do many different exercises. Squats, lunges, push-ups, planks and step ups are just a few common exercises that require no equipment and provide a good workout right in your home.
Athletic trainers wear plenty of hats in our line of work. From high school outreach to injury evaluations to training programs, we aim to help you recover from an injury or help prevent it in the first place. We would prefer to see you happy and healthy. So, whether you are an athlete competing in a state tournament or someone preparing for your first 5K race, we want to emphasize the importance of strength and conditioning.
If you are unsure about starting an exercise program, please consult your provider to make sure it is right and safe for you. To learn more about our Sports Medicine program at Tri-County Health Care, click here.
In the event of an injury, Tri-County Health Care’s Rehab Services can help you regain your strength through services that include Aquatic Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Speech Therapy.
About the Author: Sarah Maninga has been an athletic trainer at TCHC since January 2015. She works with athletes at three area schools: Wadena-Deer Creek, Sebeka and Menahga. During her time off, she enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter on their small farm and doing anything that involves being outside, especially hunting and running.