Tuesday, August 17, 2010

College Athletes Gear Up For Fall

The typical high school senior may be yearning for the day when she can start slacking – on school, on household chores, and on staying in shape.

But for student athletes like Susannah Feinstein, the college acceptance letter didn’t mean any less pressure. If anything, she stepped up her game.

Feinstein, who starts as a freshman at University of Pittsburgh this week, spent the spring of her senior year improving on her track times in order to become a part of the university’s Division 1 Track and Cross Country team. By committing to her training, she was able to get her times low enough to be accepted onto the team.

“It’s intense training,” she says. “There’s a lot of discipline involved with long-distance running. But it’s really good stress relief, and important part of maintaining my mental health.”

Sinai neurologist Kevin Crutchfield says that discipline and commitment to a sport can result to a college freshman having more direction.

“Athletics at the college level keep children focused and makes them time efficient,” he says.

Crutchfield, the director of the Comprehensive Sports Concussion Program at the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Brain & Spine Institute of LifeBridge Health and a former college athlete himself, works with a number of student and professional athletes. In addition to his treatment of those who are brain injured, Crutchfield talks to players about the prevention of brain injury. The secret to keeping both brain and body healthy lies in training, Crutchfield says.

“In the spring, I talk about training and off-season fitness,” he says. “This is especially true in areas such as football, where I tell the players ‘you need to get in shape now.’ Otherwise, being slower and having slow reaction times can lead to injury.”

With the absence of parents, sleep deprivation, missing meals and drinking can become a problem for any college freshman. But the consequences for a collegiate player can be dire.

“You can’t do the typical partying because your body won’t be okay for practice,” Feinstein says. “You need to take a holistic approach to staying healthy, including drinking a lot of water, doing weight training and avoiding repetitive motion.” Plus, any NCAA athlete like Feinstein will need to follow requirements such as having a sports physical, maintaining a certain GPA, and having random drug testing.

Feinstein says that she's looking forward to being a member of the team, even as she juggles three hours of daily practice with an intense college program in nursing.

“I love running. I plan to be on the team all four years,” she says.

No comments: