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Athletic Performance

On Your Mark

As a prior college track athlete, cross country runner, competitive long jumper, and retired national figure skater, Dr. Saukin has a special interest and qualifications to work with young athletes. She has an appreciation for the mind/body connection and the psychosocial stressors and physical demands experienced by children and teenagers, young athletes, and their families. She is proficient in treating many sports injuries and the nutritional needs associated with various training regimens. Some of the special concerns for your young children and athletic teenagers are outlined below (please see PRESS.)

Please note that common injuries such as those associated with the back, knee, ankle, shoulder, and head will be evaluated as needed by Dr. Saukin.

If it is an emergency, please call 911 or head to your nearest emergency room.

Nutrition for the Young Athlete

Please refer to NUTRITION link, which explains a healthy diet for children and adults.

Protein is essential for growth, energy, and tissue repair. Athletic performance depends on muscle strength, and muscles are made of protein. Although athletes who are involved in strength and endurance training may need slightly more protein, it’s a mistake to think you can simply build up muscles by eating lots of protein. Exercise, not dietary protein, increases muscle mass.

The amount of protein teens need varies at different stages of development. As a rule, boys and girls between ages 11 and 14 need half a gram per pound of body weight daily. Between ages 15 and 18, the RDA drops slightly. As with all essential nutrients, common sense is the rule—you don’t have to weigh every gram on a scale. Each gram of protein provides 4 calories—the same as carbohydrates—and protein should make up about 10% to 12% of each day’s calories. As a general rule, there are approximately 22 g of protein in 3 ounces of meat, fish, or poultry. An 8-oz glass of milk contains about 8 g of protein. Therefore, an average teenager who is drinking 3 glasses of milk a day does not need enormous amounts of meat to meet his daily protein requirement.

Athletes need to be aware of these nutritional demands.

Demands on the Young Athlete

The transition from high school to college can be stressful for any student but recent evidence suggests that athletes may experience even greater levels of stress due to the dual demands of athletics and academics placed on them during their freshman year. For the matriculating freshman student athlete, these demands may at times seem overwhelming.

Although participation in athletics can serve as a buffer to stress, studies also suggest that athletic participation itself can become an additional stressor that traditional college students do not experience.

Athletes experience unique stressors related to their athletic status such as extensive time demands; a loss of the ‘star status’ that many had experienced as high school athletes, injuries, and conflicts with their coaches, among other factors. In addition to these stresses, high school and freshmen athletes must also meet increased academic demands. There is often a pressure to win, excessive anxiety, frustration, conflict, irritation and fear significantly affecting mental or emotional health.

In addition to mental health concerns, many athletes report physical health concerns as well, such as lack of sleep, continuous tension, fatigue, headaches, and digestive problems. Even more alarming is the fact that student athletes tend to avoid seeking out available counseling, so the percentage of student athletes who may actually require such intervention is likely even higher. In addition to those psychological and physiological issues mentioned above, athletes may also be in particular need of counseling for a variety of additional stress-related concerns, including time management, burnout, anxiety, depression, and self-esteem issues.

Clearly, there is a need to identify specific sources of stress that significantly affect student-athletes that may differ from those experienced by the traditional non-sport student. This is especially true for the college freshman student-athlete who is facing multiple new challenges arising from athletic, academic and social demands. Many freshmen student-athletes are unprepared to successfully deal with these stressors. Effective intervention programs are key to successful treatment. Parents should always try to remain in communication with their children and any potential concerns.