The bats are about to swing, the discus fly, and lacrosse balls will hurtle across Long Island school fields. As students gear up for spring sports, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association recognizes March as National Athletic Training Month. This month-long initiative aims to spread awareness about the important contributions of athletic trainers to the safety and well-being of student athletes. NYU Winthrop Hospital, which has the largest hospital-based athletic training program on Long Island, serving 16 high schools and middle schools, offers up some spring-sports safety tips. This includes proper hydration, dynamic warm-up or static stretching, and acclimatization—adjusting to changes in the environment such as fluctuations in temperature and humidity—to maintain safety and performance.
“To properly acclimatize for a spring sport, we recommend progressing the amount of exercise time outdoors slowly over 10 to 14 day period to prepare for safe sporting activity and deter from any illnesses,” said Christopher Napoli, ATC, supervisor of athletic training services at NYU Winthrop Hospital. “It’s especially important that coaches gradually increase the intensity of the spring sport each day, rather than having student–athletes dive headlong into strenuous activity.” Acclimatization may also include layering in the beginning of the spring sports season, such as wearing gloves and base layers.
According to athletic trainers at NYU Winthrop, it’s also key to perform dynamic warm-up (moving and stretching) prior to participation and conclude a training session or practice with a warm-down as well, followed by static or stationary stretching. This will ensure that the heart rate has increased to allow maximum blood flow and elasticity of the muscles prior to exercise and to bring the heart rate down slowly after activity. Explains Daniel DeSimone, ATC, who is also a supervisor of athletic training services at NYU Winthrop, “While a baseball or softball team may share in joint exercises, a student who plays shortstop needs a conditioning regimen quite different than that of a catcher who plays in a stationary-type position. Whether you are a hurdler, lacrosse player or even a golfer, the importance of performing a dynamic warm-up is key and decreases the likelihood of injury in your sport.” A lunge with a twist, for example, is a dynamic warm-up exercise that engages a baseball or softball player’s hips, legs, and core muscles, so if the player then lunges for a ball during a game, the muscles involved were already engaged during the warm-up.
NYU Winthrop athletic trainers are available to break down and/or illustrate some of the best stretches and exercises for different spring sports including dynamic stretches such as:
- forward leg swings
- sideway leg swing
- lunge with torso twist
- knee to chest
- butt kick
Static stretches include:
- standing arm stretches
- sit and reach hamstring stretch
- calf stretch
The NYU Winthrop athletic trainers are part of the hospital’s sport medicine program. The athletic trainers’ services include community outreach on injury prevention and concussion clinics, health promotion, hydration and nutrition advice, clinical examination and diagnosis, acute care of injury and illness, therapeutic interventions, and more. Area schools that currently tap NYU Winthrop athletic trainers include high schools in Garden City, East Meadow, Herricks, Hempstead, Rockville Centre, Plainview, Westbury, and Uniondale, along with two high schools in Levittown (MacArthur and Division), and Clarke and Island Trees high schools. NYU Winthrop also serves middle schools including Salk, Wisdom, Lawrence Road, and Turtle Hook.
The NYU Winthrop athletic trainers also stress the importance of hydration, with 4 to 8 ounces of fluid typically needed for every 15 to 20 minutes of exercise; an athlete is properly hydrated if he orshe produces urine that is light of clear in color—the darker the urine the more dehydrated the athlete.