As in-person practices started for the high school winter sports season Monday, there wasn’t much time to waste. On Thursday, Jan. 14, most teams will start their seasons, with the remainder beginning their competition schedule shortly after.
With only 10 days between the first full practice and first competition, and coming off an extended shutdown of public athletic training facilities, conditioning might need to be a key to focus on in those early practices.
Based on initial conversations, however, the athletic trainer for Northfield High School, Lindsey Person, said athletes have been working to stay in shape at home to mitigate what might have been a difficult transition period in the next week and a half. Without that prior conditioning, there might have been a risk for injuries as athletes jump back in to full-fledged activity after an extended period away.
“I think if you actually break down and look at what a lot of these kids are doing, it’s not just lifting weights in the basement,” Person said. “A lot of them are utilizing the area they have to do sport-specific stuff, whether it is playing pickup games of basketball with their family or going in their garage to shoot for hockey. A lot of them are doing those things to try and get prepared, and with it being the year that it is we’ll just have to see what happens.”
Person, who also works for Northfield Hospital + Clinics, joined teams in starting in-person work for the first time in the winter sports season Monday.
She said that based on her experiences in the fall season, which also included long layoffs and shorter preseasons, there’s no reason to expect any uptick in injury rates this winter, but that it’s impossible to make a guaranteed prediction before the season starts.
“The fall was fairly normal,” Person said. “It was just the chronic aches and pains that we normally see. In terms of major injuries, this was a year I didn’t see many of those, so that was nice. In terms of the chronic aches and pains and then the general ankle sprains, those were pretty normal, so there weren’t many changes in that sense.”
After the first hurdle of conditioning is cleared, the season settles into a more natural rhythm with only two competitions allowed a week before that number increases to three in the latter part of the schedule, which means that any chance for overuse or athletes to be overworked is diminished.
That end of the season will arrive quickly, however, similar to the fall, when Person learned the biggest lesson she’s planning on carrying over into the next few months.
“The biggest thing is I just have to keep remembering the kids want to play,” Person said. “Because it’s a short season, they might try to push through injuries and push through pain more than they would if it was a regular season and they had more time to play. The biggest thing for me was getting to know the kids and knowing what their baseline abilities are and helping them not to cross that line.”