How to Safely Return to Play After Pandemic Lockdowns

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The past year has been challenging for youth athletes. More time spent indoors for online education has left youth in weaker physical condition – raising the risk of musculoskeletal injuries, cardiac and pulmonary issues.

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently published an article about the importance of training and conditioning for all athletes before they resume fall sports. Naomi Brown, MD, FAAP, CAQSM, a sports medicine pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), reports she’s already seen a huge rise in injuries from less activity in young athletes who believe they can suddenly return to full activity after the pandemic, rather than gradually returning and rebuilding skills more slowly.

Tips for young athletes:

  • Start back slowly – 15-20 minutes of activity the first week
  • Increase workout intensity gradually (about 10%) each week
  • If you develop pain, slow down!

“Pain and soreness are a good indicator that you are doing too much,” Dr. Brown says. “I expect athletes to be sore when they haven’t done anything, and that’s OK. But if the pain is lasting for more than an hour after activity, or if they have pain the next day, they’ve overdone it.”

Dr. Brown urges coaches to start the season with a conditioning evaluation for each athlete, then to customize training based on where they started and where they want to get to.

Another important consideration for youth athletes is growth. Some students may have grown taller during the pandemic, while their muscles have gotten tighter and weaker. Plus, many young athletes have spent a lot of time indoors in the past 18 months, missing out on sunlight and Vitamin D which helps regulate calcium and phosphate to keeps bones, teeth and muscles healthy.

Read the full article in the Philadelphia Inquirer: “After a year of pandemic lockdowns, high school athletes are getting injured, doctors say. Here’s how to safely return to play.

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