little girl playing soccer
little girl playing soccer

How To Get Kids Ready For Spring Sports

Posted on March 20, 2023 by Henry Ford Health Staff

 As the winter chill begins to thaw, kids may be anxious to get back to outdoor sports. But if they haven’t been active during the colder months, have them take it slowly to avoid injury. 

“Ideally, children should be physically active throughout the year and not only during the spring and summer,” says Ahmad Bazzi, M.D., a sports medicine physician at Henry Ford Health. “During the off-season, they should play another sport or train indoors. But if they weren’t able to do that over the winter, encourage your child to gradually work up to their full potential.” 

If possible, it’s also a good idea for student athletes to start resistance and strength training at least two months before the spring season. “This will ensure they don’t do too much too soon,” says Jennifer Burnham, an athletic trainer at the Henry Ford Center for Athletic Medicine. “If they don’t have access to a gym, using household items like books or milk jugs can be helpful to make lunges or squats more challenging.” 

These nine ground rules will help them get back in the game after an off-season.

  1. Get a pre-season evaluation. Whether you’re signing up a 4-year-old for a pee-wee league or your high schooler is joining the varsity lacrosse team, scheduling a pre-participation exam with the child’s pediatrician is critical—even if it isn’t required by the school or league. A doctor can detect vision issues, joint problems, elevated blood pressure or other concerns that could develop into long-term health problems or prevent your child from playing their best.
  2. Wear protective gear. Whether they’re riding bikes or suiting up for a big game, all kids should protect themselves with the appropriate gear. “Get all equipment properly sized before the season starts, including shoulder pads, cups, helmets and shin guards,” says Dr. Bazzi. “And consider sports glasses if your child needs vision assistance and sports goggles if there’s a risk of eye damage.”
  3. Don’t forget sunscreen. Even when it’s cloudy outside, the sun’s rays lead to skin damage. Apply sunscreen liberally about 30 minutes before play and reapply frequently. Wearing hats, long-sleeved cotton shirts and playing in shaded areas can also protect them from the sun. 
  4. Eat healthily. Fruits and vegetables provide important vitamins and minerals that are necessary for proper growth and development. Lean protein is essential for building muscles. Both kids and adults need carbohydrates for endurance. While there are no “bad foods”—everything can and should be enjoyed in moderation—eating processed and sugary foods on a regular basis can affect their performance.
  5. Get enough sleep. Sleep allows our bodies to refuel for the next day. Sleep recommendations vary based upon your child’s age—and children may need more or less sleep depending upon their activity level. 3- to 6-year-olds need 10 to 12 hours, 7- to 12-year-olds need 10 to 11 hours and 12- to 18-year-olds need 8 to 9 hours.
  6. Take time to warm up and cool down. Before and after participating in a sporting activity, children should take a 5- to 10-minute walk or jog. Then have them stretch out the targeted muscle groups to release tension. “Warm-ups gradually increase blood flow to the muscles and increase body temperature before exercise,” says Dr. Bazzi. “Cool downs allow heart rate and blood pressure to slow down and return to normal. Both are critical to preventing muscle soreness and injury.”
  7. Stay hydrated. Kids overheat more quickly than adults. In fact, according to some estimates, a child can lose up to 1 quart of sweat during 2 hours of exercise. To avoid fatigue and heat stroke, have your child drink plenty of water 1 to 2 hours before the activity and sip on small amounts every 12 to 20 minutes during the activity. “While water or water infusions are best, if a child is exercising for more than 1 hour, sports drinks are a good alternative since they contain additional carbohydrates for energy and electrolytes that can replenish your body after exercise,” says Dr. Bazzi. 
  8. Know the signs of concussion. Teens should especially know the signs of a concussion—which include blurry or double vision, seeing stars, nausea and sensitivity to light—and they should understand the risks of playing with concussion symptoms.
  9. Never let your child play through an injury. Sometimes, time off is needed for healing. Rest can also help strengthen an area that has been repeatedly injured. It’s also important to seek out help if needed. “Is there an athletic trainer at your child’s school? They can help manage injuries and determine whether your child should see a physician,” says Burnham.   

At Henry Ford’s Center for Athletic Medicine, the sports performance program helps athletes prepare for their upcoming season. Athletic trainers work one-on-one with athletes to help them strength train, prevent injury and reach their goals for the season. Learn more.

To find a sports medicine specialist at Henry Ford Health, visit or call 1-800-436-7936.

Ahmad Bazzi, M.D., is a sports medicine physician at Henry Ford Health. 

Jennifer Burnham, MS, AT, ATC, CSCS, is a certified athletic trainer at the Henry Ford Center for Athletic Medicine.   

Categories : ParentWell

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