By Stephanie Davey, MEd, ATC, PES
Athletic Trainer
MUSC Health Sports Medicine
www.MUSCHealth.org/Sports

The middle of July means that high school football is just a couple of weeks away. In South Carolina, most of our high schools start around July 27th. If your son is planning to play football and go through preseason, there are a few things they need to focus on off the field in order to be safe and productive on the field.

Hopefully, your son has already been working on his conditioning. This will go a long way to him being able to acclimate to the South Carolina heat. South Carolina High School League mandates an acclimatization practice plans that all high schools must follow. If you have questions about that plan you can find it on the South Carolina High School League website

Hydration is always the first thing that comes to mind when we think of preseason football. Your son must be hydrated prior to reporting to practice each day. There is no way to catch up if they are already dehydrated when they arrive. Two ways to tell if they are hydrated is monitoring the color and volume of their urine and making sure they weigh in and out of practices. Their urine should be a light yellow color and high in volume before they go to bed each night. Secondly, they should be weighing in prior to practice and out after practice. They can do this at home or with their athletic trainer. For every pound that they lost during practice, they need to drink 20-24 oz of fluid. If they do not regain the weight they’ve lost during the previous practice, they may need to be held out of practice until they’ve rehydrated. To rehydrate, they should consume water and a sports drink. Soda and beverages with a high caffeine content should be avoided. Energy drinks should not be consumed at all.

The next thing to focus on is proper nutrition. The body is just like a car, the better fuel you put in it the better it performs. Your son needs quality food that is high in nutrition volume with a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Your son needs 40 – 50 kcals/kg of body weight. They should consume 4-8g/kg of carbohydrates and 2-3 g/kg of proteins.  Foods to focus on are lean meats, eggs, nut butters, protein shakes, pastas, and fruits and vegetables. Fruit and vegetables with a high water content can also help to hydrate. Your son needs to eat prior to practice, even if it is an early morning practice. It shouldn’t be a big heavy meal, but they need to have some source of energy before practice.

The last thing to focus on is sleep. The National Institute of Health recommends that high school athletes get an average of 9-10 hours of sleep each night.  Proper sleeping habits with allow your son’s body the time it needs to recover after each practice.  It allows him to stay focused and think clearly during practice. Better recovery and better focus leads to better performance.

Taking these steps will go a long way towards protecting your son during preseason football, ensuring that he has a fun, productive and safe football season.