There are a lot of great things about playing football in high school. It’s a great way to stay active, it’s a great way to meet friends, and with dedication, it can even help you get a scholarship.
Unfortunately, playing football isn’t all good. It’s one of the most dangerous sports for teens to play because injuries are frequent, they can be severe, and they can have lasting consequences.
That doesn’t mean you have to give up on your football playing dreams! There are many things teens and their parents can do to make playing football safe.
Use the Right Mouth Guard
Make sure you use a properly fitted mouth guard. This piece of advice is often not given the importance it deserves because it’s easy to wear a mouth guard and forget about it.
First, a properly fitted mouth guard should conform to your teeth. One that is placed in boiling water and molded to your mouth will always be more protective than a generic mouth guard.
Make sure that the mouth guard is changed out frequently, especially if braces are involved. Teeth move a lot as children are growing, and they move even faster with braces. Make sure that mouth guard fits just the way it should by changing it out every season or more often.
Keep your eye open for innovations in mouthguard technology and be willing to give it a try. For example, High-tech mouthpieces can measure brain impacts during play. This has the potential to prevent serious concussions and future headaches and memory loss.
Get Your Own Helmet
Even if you’re just starting your football career, don’t make the mistake of wearing someone else’s helmet.
It is surprisingly common for teens to wear old helmets. Many programs have multiple helmets that have been worn by other players so kids can participate, regardless of whether they have their own helmet or not.
Although this sounds helpful on the surface, it can be very harmful in the long run. Improperly fitted helmets can increase the chance of experiencing a concussion or brain damage. Even if the helmet does fit, if it has been used for many years, it can lose much of its protectiveness as it is worn.
Save some money and make sure you get your own helmet that’s new and fits properly. If the team needs new helmets, consider hosting a fundraiser to raise money so everyone can buy new helmets.
Stay Current With Physicals
One of the best things teens can do to make sure they are healthy throughout football season and beyond is to schedule appointments with their doctor to have physicals often.
A physical can help you uncover and address medical issues that could get in the way of you participating in football. Your doctor can address everything from asthma to a previous injury.
Your doctor also knows your body and your unique challenges. They can provide you with specific tips when stretching or playing to avoid problems in the future.
Seeing a doctor regularly can also provide you with peace of mind. If the doctor says you can play, then you know it’s safe to play!
Warm-Up and Stretch
Although you may be itching to get out on the field, it is extremely important that you take the time to warm up and stretch first.
There are many reasons why you should stretch your body in a way that’s comfortable for you:
- It raises your temperature, which makes oxygen more readily available to your muscles.
- Blood vessels are able to dilate, putting less stress on your heart.
- It warms your muscles, which enables them to contract and relax more quickly.
- Large joints, like your knees, can reach their maximum movement potential.
Listen to your body. Even if the warm up routine with the team is finished, you may need to do new or different stretches to fully prepare for the game.
Learn Proper Playing Techniques
Playing the right way can have a huge impact on whether you get injured or not. Make sure you listen to your coach. They can teach you how to hit and how to fall with the least amount of injury possible.
Don’t be afraid to seek outside help if you want to learn more or different techniques. Not all coaches are equal. Others may have more knowledge or tips to offer in a private coaching or training situation.
Don’t Play Through Pain
It isn’t uncommon for NFL stars to play through the pain. That’s absolutely unnecessary for teens with growing bodies that deserve respect and support. If you aren’t getting paid millions of dollars per game and you don’t have access to the best medical professionals in the sport, sit out when you have an injury.
When you take care of your injury and allow it to heal without reaggravating the injury, you’re more likely to make a full recovery.
Play Other Sports During the Year
Football can easily take over your life if you aren’t careful. There’s nothing wrong with having a passion for the sport, but it’s a good idea to play other sports throughout the year too.
Overuse injuries are a real threat to athletes. When you use the same muscles over and over in the same ways, they are more prone to injury, which could spell the end of your football career.
During the off season, take up a different sport. Consider playing another sport like:
- Martial arts
Varying your workouts during the off season can help too. For example, don’t just jog every day. Hop on a rowing machine, go for a walk, or ride a bike to stay fit and work different muscle groups.
Football is one of the most dangerous sports for teens, but that doesn’t mean teens shouldn’t be allowed to play! It means that teens, parents, and coaches should all look for ways to make the sport safer. These tips are a great place to start.