Kids are returning to competitive and recreational sports now that a new school year is underway.

Sports can be a positive experience for young athletes, but they can also put them at risk for injury. Our trauma experts have advice for staying healthy and injury-free.

With the school year underway, many kids are returning not only to car rider line, studying and homework, but to various competitive and recreational sports leagues.

Playing sports can be a healthy, positive experience for young people – but it can also open the door to injuries. The experts at Regional One Health’s Elvis Presley Trauma Center and Firefighters Burn Center have some advice to keep athletes healthy and safe.

“Whether it’s volleyball, football, golf, cheer, etc., being the best in a sport requires practice, practice, and more practice,” noted Geretta Hollins, Community Outreach and Injury Prevention Program Coordinator for Trauma and Burn Services. “Playing sports is physically demanding and can cause injuries at any level. In order to stay safe and injury-free while practicing and playing a sport, follow the advice of our trauma experts.”

First, warm up your muscles to avoid strains, tears and other injuries. “Always stretch before you begin your sport,” Hollins said. “Take a few minutes to go through some simple moves like arm circles and leg bends.”

Strengthening your core – the muscles deep within the abdominals and back – also protects the body during physical activity.  “A strong core is essential in sports and can help you avoid injuries,” Hollins said. “It improves your balance and stability.”

Exercises like abdominal crunches and planks are a great way to build stronger core muscles. Make sure you use proper form and breathe deeply while performing the exercises, and start out with 12 to 15 repetitions at a time.

Wearing proper equipment is important in every sport. The right pads, helmets, shoes, etc. can help prevent both acute and overuse injuries.

Hollins said athletes should also strengthen the leg muscles to improve stability and prevent falls. She suggested working on strength and balance by positioning your heel right in front of your toe (like walking a tightrope) and then standing and sitting from a chair without using your hands.

Athletes should also use the proper technique and equipment for their sport.

Good technique is important because sports involve doing things over and over again. If you are repeatedly serving a tennis ball, swinging a golf club, doing a backstroke, etc., you’re at higher risk of overuse injuries, and the chance of overuse or even acute injury increases if you’re doing the motion incorrectly.

Proper equipment is just as important. High-impact sports like football require pads and helmets to avoid concussions and other injuries. Aerial sports like cheer and gymnastics should only be done with mats to reduce fall injuries. Runners should invest in shoes designed to handle the mileage they put on their feet and joints.

Along with considering the specifics of your sport, pay attention to your environment. If practice or competition means you are exerting yourself outside on hot days, remember to stay hydrated and be aware of signs of heat illness like high body temperature, headache, dizziness and nausea.

Stay hydrated while you practice and compete, especially if you’re outside on a hot, humid day.

Finally, there’s the toughest piece of advice for many young athletes to follow: take time to rest.

Schedule regular rest days and take time off if you’re fatigued or in pain. If you do have an injury, don’t rush your return to action until a medical professional says you’re ready – playing or practicing while hurt can cause the injury to get worse or take longer to heal.

“It really is important to give your body a break,” Hollins said. “Incorporate rest breaks into your sport in order to avoid the risk of injuries and muscle fatigue.”

The Elvis Presley Trauma Center is the only Level-1 Trauma Center in a 150-mile radius of Memphis. A multispecialty team of experts is available 24/7 to treat the most critically-injured patients from Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, and parts of Missouri.

Regional One Health’s Firefighters Burn Center is the only full-service burn center in a 400-mile radius of Memphis that is verified by the American Burn Association. It provides comprehensive services including emergency and critical care, intensive care, specialized burn rehabilitation, and laser and plastic surgery.

To learn more about the lifesaving care our team provides, visit and