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Thursday, 1 May 2014

Fatigue in Athletes

Many athletes become fatigued during the season.  With the prevalence of year round sport, young athletes are becoming fatigued more often that before.  As a coach and parent there are two main ways you can help deal with athlete fatigue.  Firstly you must plan a schedule that will help prevent athlete fatigue, secondly you must be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of athlete fatigue.  

Signs to look for when seeing if your athlete is becoming fatigued come as both physical, mental and emotional.  Physically athletes may become more prone to sickness.  Missing practices, games and competitions due to illness more often than normal is an easy sign for parents and coaches to see.  An increase in pain as well as slower recovery from work outs or injuries occur as athletes become more fatigued during the season.  As the body uses its energy to try to keep up with normal daily activities, It finds it harder to find the energy to heal, compete and learn new skills.  Skills that were once automatic become harder to complete.  

Mental and emotional fatigue can end up leading to depression, so it is imperative that early recognition occurs.  Athletes may appear moodier or more emotional.  The happy go lucky athlete who cheers everyone on, soon becomes withdrawn and irritable.  You may notice an increase in irritability.  Snapping at parents, siblings or teachers without cause or over reacting to situations can be early indicator of fatigue.  

Altered sleep patterns, both a increase or decrease in the amount of sleep is a sign of both mental and physical fatigue.  When or wear an athlete chooses to sleep as well.  You may find that an athlete is falling asleep during dinner or needing naps after school.  If this is typically abnormal and becomes more than an occasional occurrence, further investigations as to the cause need to occur.  
One of the major clues or signs to look for is a decreased enthusiasm for their sport.  Not wanting to attend practices or competitions, coming up with excuses as to why they don't want to go or wanting to leave early are all signs of this loss of enthusiasm.  This type of fatigue is associated with burnout and is typical with athletes involved in sports with early specialization and year round sport.  
Prevention of fatigue as with all types of injuries is simpler than dealing with it after it occurs.  When organizing an athletic year follow the principles of periodization.  Both physically and mentally the athlete can not be at peak performance all the time.  There must be highs and lows of training and competition. 

As parents, coaches and teacher-coaches; a balance between school, sport and social life must be achieved.  When scheduling practices and games allow time for both the body to recover as well as time for your athletes to complete homework and spend time with friends and family.  
Communication is pivotal for both recognition and prevention of fatigue.  Talking and listening to your athletes to both verbal and non-verbal actions will allow you to take any steps needed before it is too late.  

Athlete fatigue is more than just being tired and can lead to long term health problems.  Preventing and recognizing this before it becomes severe is important in truly making the athletes health a priority. 

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