Hospital for Special Surgery has partnered with New York City Public School Athletic League (PSAL) to offer a weekly clinic to treat PSAL football players for injuries. I serve as Medical Director of the clinic and have enjoyed my relationship with the organization, as it is great to help high school athletes participate safely and perform to their best ability. We are always available to see athletes at the hospital on Monday afternoons during the season.
Most football athletes have spent the summer conditioning but if you’re starting football practice this month, the following are points to keep in mind. Remember to consult a physician before starting an exercise regimen.
1. Stay hydrated. Understand that thirst is not a sign you need to drink fluids. Water is adequate but fluids with electrolytes are needed if you exercise over two hours a day. You should follow your weight and start each practice no more than one or two pounds less than what you had weighed at the end of the previous practice. To do this you will need to take in fluids during, after and before practice.
2. Push yourself during practice but that does not mean you should go to complete exhaustion. Each individual can get in excellent shape without going to full fatigue.
3. Nutrition is important for recovery. Consume a carbohydrate bar or carbohydrate drink immediately after practice, followed by a meal one to two hours after to help keep your strength and endurance.
4. Make sure all your equipment fits correctly. If you feel your helmet or pads are slipping, you need to talk to your coaches.
5. Always make sure you “see what you hit.” Your head should be up when using proper blocking and tackling technique.
6. Talk to your parents or coaches if you feel you have been injured, especially if you feel that you have had your “bell rung.” There is no such thing as a mild concussion. Most minor injuries to your upper or lower body can remain mild if treated early.
Dr. James Kinderknecht is a sports medicine physician at Hospital for Special Surgery. He serves as the medical director of the Public School Athletic League Football Clinic.