Summer Training Tips for High School Athletes

July 12, 2002
News Office: Maureen McInaney (415) 502-6397

During summer vacation, high school athletes may be tempted to slack off from the rigorous training they need to stay in shape. However, last-minute conditioning for fall sports could contribute to serious sports injuries, according to Dr. Marc Safran, co-director of the UCSF Sports Medicine Center.

Year-round conditioning is especially important for football players, who have the highest rate of injuries. "People often say they play sports to get in shape. But it's important that you first get in shape to play," Safran said.

Whether you aspire to be a professional athlete or play sports for fun, here are some tips for safe summer training:

Drink fluids: Remember to drink plenty of water to avoid muscle cramping or heat-related illness. Fluids should be consumed frequently during strenuous activity and within a half hour after training. If you wait until you're thirsty, you're already far behind. It will be difficult to catch up during your conditioning or training. One way to determine if you're drinking enough water is the color of your urine - it should be clear. If it's dark yellow, you're not drinking enough. Conditions related to a lack of fluids include:

  • Heat cramps: These are painful, involuntary muscle spasms that usually occur in the muscles being exercised, such as the legs or arms.
  • Heat exhaustion: Symptoms include a rapid heart rate, low blood pressure, possibly a low-grade fever and hot, red, dry or sweaty skin. People with heat exhaustion may look pale and feel faint or nauseas.
  • Heat stroke: This is a serious and sometimes fatal condition in which your body is unable to sweat and regulate its temperature. Symptoms include rapid heartbeat, unusually high or low blood pressure, fainting, rapid and shallow breathing, confusion, irritability and loss of consciousness.

Avoid Peak Sun: Avoid rigorous workouts during the peak temperatures from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Some athletes think the heat makes them tougher. That's true only if your body is already in top condition. Otherwise, you could be at risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Warm Up: Even high school athletes need to stretch their muscles before strenuous exercise as a way to prevent muscle injury. Proper stretching lengthens or "loosens" muscle tissue, making it less prone to trauma and tears. Pre-workout warm ups become more important with age, but they help reduce the risk of injury, no matter what your age.

Eat Balanced Meals: Proper nutrition is important to maintaining your body's peak performance. For endurance sports such as football or track, eat plenty of carbohydrates such as bread, cereal and potatoes, which turn into glucose and the energy you'll need.

Pace Yourself: Start slowly if you're not already in shape. Increase your workout regimen gradually, by no more than 10 percent a week.

This fall, the sports medicine specialists at UCSF Medical Center - including orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists and certified athletic trainers - will offer free Saturday morning drop-in clinics for Bay Area high school student athletes. The clinics are held from 8 to 10 a.m., during football season at UCSF Medical Center at Mount Zion, 1701 Divisadero St., Suite 240, in San Francisco. For more information about the Saturday clinics, please call (415) 353-7558

The clinics are part of an outreach program, founded last year. During football season, the program provides an athletic trainer twice a week at eight high schools with football programs in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) and physical exams for all SFUSD football players before they participate on teams.

The program is funded in part by a $115,000 grant from the Mount Zion Health Fund, which provides support to programs that improve the physical, emotional and spiritual health of vulnerable populations.

In addition to the clinic for high school athletes, the Sports Medicine Center provides care for athletes of all levels and age. To make an appointment, please call (415) 353-7566 or (415) 353-7567. You may need a referral from your primary care physician.

For help finding a doctor, please call the Physician Referral Service toll free at (888) 689-UCSF or (888) 689-8273.