how to prevent sports injuries in college athletes It’s August which means you’re probably squeezing in the last of your summer trips, hitting up the nearest beaches and perhaps watching the summer Olympics. Summer may be winding down in a few weeks and the shift in seasons may also mean a shift in your routine but fall is always an exciting time. The start of fall also signifies the start of many sports, including football, soccer, tennis, baseball and much more. With students going back to school and getting back into their sports routine, the risk of injury always stands higher. In fact, according to Livestrong, it is estimated that nearly 380,000 college athletes get injured playing collegiate sports. Whether you’ve been taking the summer off or taking the summer by storm, these tips will help keep you safe and injury-free this coming sports season.

Always stretch. Ensure that you stretch for five to ten minutes prior to your workout; don’t dive right into any activity without doing so. Believe it or not, something as simple as stretching can really go a long way as far as preventing injuries. By stretching, you’re increasing the blood flow to your muscles which helps prep them for strenuous activity. Make it a habit and incorporate it into your routine by starting your morning with a nice five-minute stretch – it will wake you up as much as your morning coffee.

Know when to stop. Don’t push yourself. If you’re injured, stay off the injury and rest. Often times, injuries become worse when you’re overexerting yourself. It’s better to take the time to heal than make the injury worse. You’ve heard the saying RICE– rest, ice, compression, elevation. If you have an acute injury like a tear or sprain, this method is usually advised to relieve the swelling and pain. While sports that involve a lot of contact, like football and wrestling, can cause more severe injuries, overuse is the biggest contributor to injuries. By continuously working the same muscle, you’re putting yourself at risk of overuse. When in doubt, wait it out.

Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and electrolyte infused beverages like Gatorade or Powerade – there’s a reason why you always see the players drinking them at games. When you sweat, you lose a lot of electrolytes which can further dehydrate you. These drinks are popular amongst athletes because it enables them to replenish these lost electrolytes to prevent dehydration.

Protect yourself. Always wear the appropriate protective gear to safeguard yourself from sustaining injuries. This is especially important in contact sports. All football players should have helmets on, all soccer players should wear knee pads and shin guards, so on and so forth. This will enable you to enjoy the sports you love to play while decreasing the risks of hurting yourself.

Always cool down. It may be hard with all the adrenaline going on to remember to cool down after a game but it is extremely important. Your muscles are going from being very active to inactive.

Be respectful of the game and rules. Foul play and a negative attitude can cause more harm than good. Be a good sport (no pun intended) and don’t let anger get to you on the field. Aggressiveness on the field can translate into injuries that could have been prevented.