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Safety tips for youth attending summer sports and athletic camps

July 02, 2013

Michelle Holmgren, Public Affairs & Community Relations Specialist
(Office) 413-967-2296 (Cell) 413-237-6743


By Peter Ouellette, DPT, MEd, OCS, Physical Therapist and Manager of Rehabilitation Services at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital


Ware, MA (July 1, 2013) – School has come to an end and soon many athletic fields will be filled with summer sport camps. With the intention of a developing athletes skills in various sports such as football, soccer, field hockey, basketball, and cheerleading, these camps have a curriculum designed for student athletes at all levels.
Participation in a youth sports camp during the summer months can offer plenty of exercise and physical activity, and can help student athletes develop a wide variety of skills. While a great way for young athletes to prepare for tryouts and competition in the fall and winter sport programs, it is estimated that 40 million kids throughout the country participate in athletic activities both in and out of school each year, and one in 10 of those students will end up in their local hospital’s Emergency Department due to a sports injury. And most of these injuries are the result of fatigue and poor conditioning.


Some discomfort is normal with the onset of a new or renewed sports activity, such as muscle aches or stiffness after hard practice. When an overuse injury occurs, young athletes should modify the intensity, duration and/or frequency of the activity to allow the body to recover and heal itself.

Students, coaches and parents should be aware of the signs signaling the progressive onset of an overuse injury: initially feeling pain at the beginning of activity, then discomfort throughout practice, leading to soreness during and just after practice, any limping during practice and games, and finally, pain noted in the morning and throughout the day. An overuse injury is preventable. You can’t just put ice on these injuries and expect them to go away. Recovery is often slow and very difficult to achieve. Early recognition and treatment of an injury are key to preventing a chronic condition and getting the player back on the field.


There is what is called “acceptable pain” which goes away in a reasonable amount of time. This distress is known as “delayed onset muscle soreness,” is discomfort which develops one or two days after the beginning of intense activity, and typically lasts three to five days. Although performance may be reduced for a few days, the body accommodates to the new stress as the muscles become conditioned.

Any pain lasting more than five days may indicate a more serious injury which will need the attention of a doctor or physical therapist.


Stretching exercises are one of the most effective ways of preventing injury. A warm-up, followed by a light stretching program prior to athletic activity is recommended. Stretching following sports participation may help your body prepare for the next bout of exercise. Slow, sustained stretching is significantly safer and more effective than bouncing. As beneficial as stretching is, it is not a cure-all and will not prevent injuries from occurring when athletes push their bodies too far.

One important item to remember is that that when injury does occur, full recovery is never guaranteed, so prevention really is the key. Athletes must get fit for their sport rather than use the sport to get fit. Student athletes should see the camp’s athletic trainer if they are having any excessive or prolonged discomfort, so that the problem can be addressed before it develops into a serious injury.


If protective gear is required for a game, it’s important for practice, too. Warm up and stay hydrated for practice just as you would for a game. And keep in mind the following:
• Make sure all protective gear is the right size and properly adjusted.
• Never “play through” an injury. Get immediate help from a coach or trainer, and be sure to mention everything that hurts or aches.
• Rest often and rehydrate with water or an electrolyte sports drink. In two hours of activity, student athletes can lose a quart of fluid by sweating.
• Follow the rules. In most sports, the rules are based on not only sportsmanship, but safety.
• Make sure responsible adults know and enforce the safety rules of the sport and are trained in first aid and CPR.


Dr. Peter Ouellette manages the Rehabilitation team at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital which includes physical therapists, occupational therapist, speech/language/swallowing pathologist, and audiologists. Proudly they offer a full range of rehabilitation services and the most advanced and appropriate treatment methods supported by current research and their many years of experience in working with athletes to achieve successful outcomes. For more information about Rehabilitation Services at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital call
(413) 967-2180. Have a safe summer!