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MUSC Health Blog

Keyword: sleep

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.

Guest post by:
Marty Travis
Athletic Trainer
MUSC Health Sports Medicine


You would think the notion of proper sleep benefiting one’s overall health, academic performance, and athletic performance is common sense. You will be surprised to find many young student athletes do not believe in the value of sleep. I have not seen any research on athletes’ attitudes on sleep, but in my daily duties as an athletic trainer it seems like many just do not care about proper sleep. I am always hearing stories from both the athletes and their parents about athletes staying up late only to get a few hours of sleep before going to class the next day. My pre-season talks to athletes in the past few years included discussions on sleep along with proper nutrition, hydration, and concussion awareness.

Teenager napping in library with notebooks

From our past experiences we all know that the lack of quality sleep has negative effects on both athletic and academic performance. It hinders our ability to make quick and correct decisions, whether it is answering a test’s question or making the correct pass on a basketball fast break. If you stayed up all night “cramming“ for a test you will most likely do poorly. It is the same way for a big game. If the athlete stays up late playing video games, the following day the athlete will most likely play poorly in the game. Also poor sleeping habits can have emotional effects. I know from personal experience that if I do not get enough sleep over a period of days I can get very grouchy and irritable. I have seen this with many other people and athletes.

How much sleep do you need? I do not think there is an answer that fits all. There are studies that say anywhere between seven and ten hours nightly but I believe it is based on the individual. Some perform well with only five hours of sleep and some need ten hours. I believe consistency is the key. First find out what your optimal sleep time is. Then during the school year and sports season get into a habit of going to sleep and waking at the same time. This, with proper nutrition and good conditioning, will only help your athletic performance and daily living.

Lastly, what about naps? More and more college football coaches encourage their players to take naps before late afternoon and evening games. The coaches are seeing better performances from players who nap before games. The National Sleep Foundation recommends a 30 minute nap before games. The Foundation does not recommend naps longer than 30 minutes because that may hinder sleep that night.

There are other negative effects of improper sleep such as hindering energy recovery, slowing injury recovery, and increasing cortisol levels. We must continue to stress proper sleep and hope the student athletes finally buy into it.

 

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