STAMFORD, Conn. -- If you compete in track and field at any level, it’s important to keep in mind how to train to perform at your best and stay healthy.
Track and field is considered a non-contact sport, so most injuries are due to overuse. A majority of the injuries involve the lower extremity, with the most common being quadriceps, hamstrings, and array of knee injuries, shin splints, stress fractures, ankle sprains, and various other lower body aliments.
While it is not possible to eliminate injuries, track and field athletes can strive to maintain a training program that works for them, geared to their specific event.
Adequate hydration is essential for all athletes during, between and after events. Drinking fluids such as water or a sports drink continuously throughout the day can help maintain hydration. Recommended hydration around competition includes drinking 16 ounces two hours before physical activity and another 8-16 ounces approximately 15 minutes before activity. During activity, it’s best to drink 4-7 ounces every 15 minutes or so. It is equally important to replenish post-event so an athlete should aim to drink nearly 20 ounces for every pound lost during physical activity.
For most athletes, the goal is to eat an adequate amount of calories from a variety of wholesome foods to meet nutritional needs. While supplements may be necessary in certain situations (such as vitamin deficiency), proper food selection is the ideal form of nutrition.
Physical conditioning is essential to injury prevention. Poor mechanics and improper technique can place added stress on joints, bones, and tendons. The most common areas for conditioning include strengthening, flexibility, endurance and balance/agility.
Adequate sleep is generally important for an athlete’s health. Research has shown that sleep is important for day-to- day recovery from training.
Proper fitting equipment is crucial with all sporting activities. For the track and field athlete, proper fitting shoes are important, especially for long distance runners. Each athlete needs shoes tailored for their event and most appropriate for their feet.
Dr. Daphne A. Scott is a primary care sports medicine physician at Hospital for Special Surgery. She specializes in the non-surgical treatment of acute, overuse, and chronic injuries. She practices at both the HSS Outpatient Center in Stamford, CT and the hospital’s main campus in New York.