Checklist for return to play

June 17, 2020 10:21 AM

Tara Gidus Collingwood, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN 
Trish Kellogg, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN  

At some point in every athlete’s career, a break from play is inevitable. Whether recovering from an injury, taking a vacation, preventing burnout, or avoiding a pandemic, these breaks can be an opportunity to strengthen your mind and renew your love for the sport. However, returning to play may mean too much and too fast, which can leave you at risk for fatigue and injury. Use this checklist to ensure your return to play plan leaves you energized and injury free:

Nutrition: The food you put in your body directly impacts your performance on the court.

  • Eat something within one hour of waking up.
  • Eat light and eat often with a goal of eating every two to four hours throughout the day. 
  • Include a balance of whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats.
  • Limit  processed foods that are high in fat and added  sugars, as they can cause digestive issues or leave you feeling drained and contribute to unwanted inflammation.

Hydration: Adopt a fluid plan and drink according to a schedule to avoid cramps and heat illness.

  • Aim for urine color to be clear to light yellow throughout the day.
  • Drink ≥16 fl oz water at least two hours prior to playing.
  • Drink a sports drink during activity to help replenish fluids and electrolytes lost in sweat.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as they can lead to dehydration and disrupt sleep.

Recovery: Be sure your recovery plan includes the four Rs—Refuel, Rebuild, Rehydrate and Recharge. Check off all four with adequate carbs, protein, water and rest after intense workouts!

  • Eat a snack or meal that is high in carbohydrates and protein within 30 minutes of each training session.
  • Drink 24 fl oz water for every pound lost during activity.
  • Aim for 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
  • Limit naps to no more than 20 minutes daily.
  • Help reduce recovery time by getting in the pool or using devices, such as the Marc Pro or NormaTec.

Injury Prevention: Go back to the basics in order to keep your body as strong as possible.

  • Maintain a healthy weight and eat sufficient calories to support activity demands. 
  • Ensure sufficient pre-activity warm-up (e.g., dynamic warm-up) and post-activity cool down (e.g., stretching).
  • Eat a diet rich in antioxidants to help strengthen your body from the inside out. 
  • Consider reinforcing your joints and tendons by adding a daily collagen supplement that is NSF Certified for Sport, such as Klean Collagen C.