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The Role of Sleep
in Athletic Performance

      Figure skating is a highly competitive sport just as is football, gymnastics, and wrestling. All follow rigorous training schedules that can be potentially dangerous to an adolescent or teenager. Parents should not rely on coaches to protect the bodies and minds of young athletes from sports related injuries before they happen.

      Unlike the outdoor athletic fields that most school sports practice and compete on, ice skating sports  sometimes find it difficult to arrange ice time at rinks because of the demand by figure skating clubs and ice hockey leagues. Speed skaters and curlers have additional problems because of the specialized requirements of their sports. As a result, many young skaters are involved in early morning training before starting school. This is almost a rite of passage for figure skaters and hockey teams.

      Coaches, parents, and and skaters should be more concerned about maintaining proper nutrition and conditioning during the competitive season; however, it is the lack of sleep that can result in reduced performance and be a major cause of injuries on and off the ice.

It Is Essential to Provide a Positive Experience 
      Without proper preparation, playing any sport can become a bad experience. There are physical developmental issues that must be considered before undertaking a sport. Every child involved in a sport at school or independent sports such as figure skating, should have a physical before starting school each fall.
      The proper warm up, stretching, and strength training exercises are essential for everyone, regardless of age, who are involved in sports. Unfortunately new athletes fail to learn improper stretching or weight-lifting techniques that make them more susceptible to injury. Dr. Steve Horwitz, a former member of the U.S. Summer Olympic medical team states that “Parents need to work with their kids to make sure they receive the proper sports training.”
      “Young athletes should begin with a general warm-up, followed by a sport specific warm-up. They should then stretch all the major muscle groups,” says Dr. Horwitz. “Kids need to be instructed in appropriate exercises for each sport to prevent injuries.”

Proper Nutrition and Hydration
      Athletes need to drink eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of water each day for proper absorption. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially for athletes participating in early morning training sessions before school. 

      Dr. Horwitz explains that "Eating a healthy meal two to four hours before a practice or a game and another within one to two hours after a game or practice allows for proper replenishment and refuels the body.”
      Young athletes today often think they are invincible. The following suggestions are important tips to achieving proper fitness, stretching, training, and rest that the body needs to engage in sporting activities:
  • Equipment. Make sure skating boot fits properly and the blade is securely attached with the blade correctly sharpened. Plan ahead to order new equipment prior to the new competitive season as other parents and skaters will be ordering equipment too and a delay in delivery should be expected. Make sure your child or adolescent wears protective padding and even head protection when learning dangerous pair lifts and multi-revolution jumps. Talk to your child's coach or trainer if the equipment is damaged or doesn't fit properly!
  • Healthy Diet. It is the parent's responsibility to insure their young athlete is eating a well-balanced diet and does not skip meals. Discourage he consumption of high-fat foods, such as candy bars and fast food. At home, provide fruit rather than cookies, and vegetables rather than junk food like potato chips.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Sports, such as gymnastics, swimming, wrestling, and figure skating encourage young athletes to follow strict dietary rules. Wrestling actually has events determined by weight.  Do not pressure your child to become too thin. Stress that proper nutrition and caloric intake are necessary to achieve optimal performance and endurance.  Consult  with a professional trainer to  include weight training along with body conditioning workout sessions.
  • Hydration   Drinking water is a key element to optimal fitness. Teenage athletes should drink at least eight ounce glasses of water a day. Younger athletes should drink five to eight 8-ounce glasses of water. Expensive commercial sport drinks are not necessary unless involved long duration sports like speed skating! Avoid sugar loaded, caffeinated, and carbonated drinks.
  • Milk  Every child needs calcium included in his/her diet. For children over 2 years of age, whole, 2%, 1%  or skim milk provide calcium and other essential minerals necessary for the development of healthy bones and reduces the risk of joint and muscle related injuries.
  • Warm-up Routine Every athlete needs to follow a training program that includes a warm-up and stretching session before every practice or competition. A slow jog, jumping rope and/or lifting small weights reduces the risk of torn or ripped muscles. Flexibility is key to achieving an athlete's full potential in competition.
  • Daily Vitamins   A multi-vitamin and Vitamin C are good choices for the young athlete. Vitamin B and amino acids may help reduce the pain from contact sports. Thiamine can help promote healing. Also consider Vitamin A to strengthen scar tissue.  Young athletes under the age of 18 should NEVER use performance enhancing supplements, such as creatine.
  • Sleep and Rest  Eight hours of sleep is ideal for the young athlete. Lack of sleep and rest can decrease performance. Sluggishness, irritability and loss of interest could indicate that your child is fatigued. The lack of sleep affects an athlete's performance and decision making skill the same as alcohol affects adults!
Recommended Reading:
  • Sleep, Athletic Performance, and Recovery  July 16, 2010 ... Many of the world's greatest athletes eat, sleep, breathe, and live to compete. Sleep plays a major role in athletic performance and competitive results.
  • The Role of Sleep in Sports  June 10, 2010 ... The Role of Sleep in Sports ... Beyond a grumpy disposition, lack of sleep can significantly affect a student athlete's performance.
  • How to Sleep Like an Olympic Athlete  The same sleep strategies used by world-class athletes are also good for regular folks. There's no doubt about the ...importance of sleep. "We know that sleep loss is going to create significant detriments in performance," says Mark Rosekind,
  • PDF It's Practice, with Sleep, that Makes Perfect:  Particularly those who are involved in athletic endeavors, practice is often believed to be necessary to enhance performance, and there is evidence linking memory as being dependent on the quality and quantity of sleep.
  • PDF Peak Performance article   Sport performance – waking up to the importance of sleep. Suggestions are made on how to improve sleep patterns.


Sports Sleeping: Lack of sleep can effect performance

Trainability of young athletes and overtraining

Lack of sleep undermines athletic performance in teens

How Sleep, or Lack of, Affects Teen Athletes

Sleep for the Athlete - Trainer's Room

NHM Question of the Week: Organized Sports

Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition

Pain in Youth Athletes

Concussions pose serious danger to young athletes

Institute for Sports Medicine - "Burnout" in young athletes


The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:

All materials are copy protected. 
The limited use of the materials for education purposes is allowed providing
credit is given for the source of the materials.

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