September 2022

· 2 min read

Playing It Safe: Safety Tips for Your After-School Student-Athlete

Play it safe when it comes to your teen athlete’s health. Check out these tips, from the importance of hydration to the risky business of supplements.
A group of boys playing soccer gathered on the playground - Safety Tips for Your After-School Student-Athlete | NSF

While making sure your teen athlete packs enough drinking water for after-school sports practice may seem like a simple action, it’s super important. Staying hydrated impacts virtually every aspect of sports performance — plus, it supports overall health and reduces the risk of injury.

Now that school is back and fall sports are ramping up, it’s a good time to refresh your memory about what you can do to keep your student-athlete healthy during after-school and weekend practices and games. Our NSF experts give you the lowdown on everything from why hydrating is so important to what you should know about sports supplements.

  1. 1

    Know the Facts

    Many cases of heat illness and dehydration are preventable.

    • Staying hydrated increases energy; improves movement, recovery and agility; and aids mental clarity and activity — all of which can enhance physical performance and reduce the risk of injuries.
    • How much water is enough? Athletes should drink plenty of water in the hours leading up to practice. During exercise, continue taking four to six big gulps of water every 15 to 20 minutes. After exercising, drink 24 ounces of water for every pound of water weight, you lose during your workout.

  2. 2

    Tasty Freeze

    The best way to get your teen to chug water during practice is to help ensure that it’s nice and chilled. The night before, stick a few bottles in the freezer, so your child can chill out at practice with fresh, cold water. Another option is flavored water — just read the label first to make sure it doesn’t have an excessive amount of caffeine.

  3. 3

    Bottle Up

    Store your bottled water in a cool place, not in the trunk of your car; it provides a good source of hydration on the go. Purified bottled water is required to be tested by the U.S. FDA. If it’s certified by NSF, it has met quality testing standards and does not exceed regulated contaminant levels. Look out for water bottle filling stations at your destination to refill your reusable cup.

  4. 4

    Stress Sunscreen

    It’s always important to remind your teen about the importance of slathering on sunscreen. Suggest they use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and apply it to dry skin 15 minutes before going outside. UV protective clothing can be used when practicing as well.

  5. 5

    Do Your Homework

    Your student-athlete is probably concerned about performing at their best. (Aren’t they all?) So, if they’re talking about taking nutritional supplements, it’s great to do your homework before heading to the pharmacy. Always remember to contact your physician before taking any dietary, sports or vitamin supplements. And look for the NSF Certified for Sport® mark, which means that the supplement has been tested and certified for professional athletes.

Some supplements may contain banned substances that can disqualify student-athletes and have potentially unhealthy or illegal ingredients. When choosing them, be aware of vitamins or supplements that claim to be alternatives to anabolic steroids or make other false or outrageous claims; that contain high levels of caffeine, green tea extract or other stimulants that may lead to restlessness, anxiety, a racing heart or an irregular heartbeat; or that contain adulterants or unapproved synthetic stimulants, like N,a-DEPEA, DMAA, DMBA or oxilofrine.

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