How To Prevent Injuries For Student-Athletes As They Head Back To School

As students are getting back into the swing of the school year, they’re not only digging into their books, but into their prospective sports as well. Student athletes all across the country are dedicating themselves to academics as well as the sport(s) they love. Along with this dedication often comes a desire to compete at all costs. Competitors of all ages often neglect their body for the sake of the game – an issue that is becoming more and more heated in American sports.

In a recent issue of  USA Today, a report by non-profit advocacy group Safe Kids Worldwide discusses youth sports safety and how to prevent youth sport-related injuries. Former U.S. Surgeon General and current co-chair of the National Council, David Satcher, is quoted saying, “The new report is the latest to point out a culture ‘that gives rise to more injuries.’ That culture is: you keep playing when you get injured. You stay in the game. You sometimes even have practice routines that contribute to injuries.”

Two chiropractors with decades of experience in youth sports share some advice, tips, and guidance for student athletes and parents on how to make sure the athlete’s total body health always comes first.

Dr. Dennis Buckley, a leader in the chiropractic space, has been a practicing chiropractor for over two decades and has also been an active member in his southern California community promoting health and well-being amongst today’s youth. He is an advocate of the “100 year lifestyle” health care philosophy, a supporter of youth football programs, and an expert on ways families can promote a healthy lifestyles for their children.

Dr. Daniel Hillquist also knows a thing or two about raising healthy children, as he has nine of them – all athletes, too. Between track and field, cross-country, soccer, basketball, and martial arts, the Hillquist family is a busy bunch. Dr. Hillquist has been a practicing chiropractor for nearly three decades and primarily works with athletes much like his children. He has even worked on Olympians in the past.

Both of these chiropractors have seen a number of sports injuries over the years and can shed some light on how to prevent them. One thing Dr. Buckley and Dr. Hillquist both recommend is for athletes to visit a chiropractor before their season starts to make sure everything is in alignment. Dr. Buckley’s office has performed over 2,000 physicals this year alone where they’re “looking at things like posture, range of motion, strength, flexibility; looking at their measurements, or height, their weight, their blood pressure, their pulse; listening to their heart and lungs, and also reviewing their past history to see if there’s anything that would be of concern.” Many people do not realize that chiropractors are qualified to perform physicals, but as Dr. Hillquist says, chiropractic physicals for athletes can often be better than a physical from a medical doctor. “I will check and see what areas may be weak in athletes. I often find weak muscles that may be due to misalignments in the spine or extremities which are readily corrected by an adjustment. Keeping the body in proper alignment helps the body to perform better and reduced the risk of injury.”

This is the core of all chiropractic beliefs. The body is all interconnected and must be treated as a whole rather than an isolated ankle or knee sprain. Dr. Buckley explains that chiropractors “look at posture and range of motion, and structure and function and how that all coordinates together. If you have a shoulder injury, the first apparent response [from a doctor] would probably be, “Okay, address the shoulder.” But there also could be injury to the neck and mid-back that may throw the spine out of alignment.” Dr. Hillquist sums it up nicely when he says, “everyone needs to have full communication from their nervous system to the rest of their body. That is how the rest of the body can look after itself and heal itself. By keeping the spine and various joints in proper alignment you help to tune up or enhance appropriate nerve flow to other parts of the body.”

So what should the role of parents be in maintaining a healthy young athlete? Both doctors clearly identify three things parents can and should be aware of:

1) Avoiding dehydration in their children.

“I always recommend water, not Gatorade,” Dr. Hillquist explains – “that is Kool-Aid with a little salt in it which is not that beneficial.”

2) Providing a healthy diet, which includes a lot of vegetables.

Through his many years in youth football, Dr. Buckley has seen a number of kids turned away from football leagues because of the weight limits in place. So now the poor diet that led to them becoming overweight is also preventing them from playing a sport which could help them lose weight and improve their health tremendously.

3) Making sure their kids are stretching and keeping their bodies flexible. When joints are stiff, the chance of injury increases greatly.

The last, and perhaps most important thing parents can do, is be good role models. “It’s going to be really hard for a kid to lose weight, to be active to play football, when the rest of the family is eating differently and not participating in physical activities,” says Dr. Buckley. Playing sports and living a healthy lifestyle “is a family activity, and if you would like your son or daughter to participate at their best, you’re going to have to be the example and share that burden with them, to live a healthy lifestyle.”

Dr. Hillquist also recommends a couple of pieces of exercise equipment that help increase flexibility and prevent injury. “One of them is a using a wobble board, which you stand on and move 360 degrees. You can practice balancing on it and stretching in different directions, and you can do it with one foot or two feet. The second piece I recommend for all athletes is the foam roller. It is good for relaxing tense, tight muscles and helps to re-balance the muscle groups.”

In addition to the professional tips shared above, parents cannot allow their kids to get burned out or over exert themselves from playing year-round. “Fatigue also contributes to injuries in children playing sports,” says Satcher. Michael Goldenberg, a board member with the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, also confirms that playing sports exclusively all year long “increases the risk of physical injuries and also the risk of getting emotionally burned out from a sport they love.” This is a sentiment both chiropractors echo.

For more information about Dr. Daniel Hillquist visit: and for more information about Dr. Dennis Buckley visit:

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