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6 Back-to-College Health Tips to Help Students Avoid Orthopedic Injuries

For most college students, teen orthopedic health isn’t even on their minds. But orthopedic injuries can occur at any age, and it’s essential to focus on lifelong orthopedic health practices. As we prepare to go back to school, these college health tips can help students avoid common injuries and stay safe.

While most teens don’t experience age-related orthopedic issues (at least until later in life), injuries aren’t uncommon, especially amongst student-athletes. Additionally, many common college behaviors can exacerbate strain, aches, and discomfort.

If you or your student are experiencing orthopedic pain, don’t overlook the issue. Get the school year off to a healthy start by consulting with a professional at the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin. Our highly acclaimed orthopedic specialists are ready to help everyone, including students, get back in top form. In the meantime, prevention is always crucial for avoiding orthopedic issues. Follow these college health tips for student wellness.

1. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

One of the most important health tips for students is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Weight gain can be a significant factor in orthopedic strain and discomfort. A sedentary lifestyle can also detract from student wellness and leave college kids feeling tired and drained. It’s not uncommon for students to spend many hours behind a desk or sitting at a computer.

To make matters worse, many students are eating on their own for the first time. A diet rich in variety and full of healthy fruits and vegetables will contribute to overall well-being. While most parents can’t do a whole lot about late-night pizza or endless bowls of ramen noodles, it can help to set students up with some healthy food choices and encourage them to make wise decisions when possible.

Finally, encourage students to get plenty of sleep. Help them stock their dorm room with comfortable pillows, a mattress pad, and other items for good sleep hygiene. Late nights, early mornings, and little sleep are part of college life, but encourage your teen to listen to their bodies. When they need rest, take it!

2. Choose Comfortable Shoes

Those cute shoes that are so great for going out on the weekends might be adding unnecessary strain and stress to your knees and back. While the jury is still out on how much of a role shoe selection plays in orthopedic strain, it’s important to note that the wrong shoes can lead to rolled ankles, slips and falls, and more.

If your student plays sports, encourage them to get the right gear for the game. Cleats help athletes maintain their grip and stabilize their footing. Basketball shoes are designed for ankle support and dynamic movement on the court. Even running shoes are crucial to preserving teen orthopedic health when they participate in track (or run on their own for exercise).

Everyone loves to express their style with shoes, but one of the best college health tips your student can follow is to choose practical options. When they’re running from one side of campus to the other, they’ll be glad they’re wearing supportive footwear.

3. Lighten Your Backpack Load

Backpack strain is a real issue that can cause undue pressure and strain on developing spines and shoulders. While it may or may not lead to permanent injury, it’s essential for student wellness and comfort that they choose a pack that’s not too heavy or overloaded.

College textbooks are notoriously heavy and bulky. When students have to trail across campus, they may not have time to go back to their dorm to pick up more books. There are several options (including wheeled bags), but one of the easiest college health tips to follow is to wear your backpack on both shoulders.

When students sling a bag over one side (or use a bookbag), the weight distribution is uneven and can lead to more shoulder strain and even neck aches. Core strength is crucial to teen orthopedic health, and if they lift the load from their core, with their weight distributed across their shoulders, they will avoid significant damage, even with heavy book bags.

4. Exercise Regularly

There’s so much going on in college; it’s hard to fit exercise as part of a healthy, active lifestyle. But as we all know, movement is the key to not only maintaining weight and staying fit but to keeping joints, muscles, and ligaments flexible and strong.

If a college wellness course isn’t part of your student’s schedule, they can still fit in extra walking around campus, exercise classes with a friend, yoga on the quad, or leisure sports. Not every activity is for all teens, and your student must find an activity that they enjoy.

College is a great time to experiment with different activities to see what you find fun. If students haven’t participated in athletics before, they may not make a college team but there are many other options. Coed sports and social leagues are a great activity for student wellness and can help them make new pals too!

5. Maintain Posture to Prevent Neck Strain

Students spend hours hunched over books, hunched over computers, and hunched at their desks. It’s hard to remember to practice good posture, but sitting up straight and comfortably can go a long way toward preventing shoulder and neck strain.

One of the best college health tips for maintaining posture is to stand or move during some activities. While students may not be allowed to stand in the lecture hall, they should take breaks, stand during labs, or incorporate occasional movement into their study time.

Again, students must learn to listen to their bodies. If they’re feeling achiness in their back, neck, or shoulders, they should look at the ergonomics of their workstations. Balancing a laptop on their knees as they slouch on the bed might feel like the most efficient way to finish a term paper, but they might also realize it’s causing a literal pain in their neck!

6. Student-Athletes: Follow the Rules

Finally, some college health tips for student-athletes since there’s a lot of pressure to perform in college athletics. Students can push their bodies to the point of discomfort and even injury. Encourage student-athletes to follow all the rules of the game, always.

Remember that the coaching staff guides and advises student-athletes to help them learn the proper form and play safely. It’s important to respect the rules of the game and listen to team leaders on the field and off.

Students don’t need to slack off to avoid injury, but they need to take rest breaks and cross-train to build supportive muscle groups outside of those used in their preferred sport. Weight training and building core strength are essential for student wellness, especially for athletes. A strong body will perform better during the game, in class, and throughout all aspects of campus life.

If your student or student-athlete should experience an injury or face an orthopedic concern, reach out right away. Teens and young adults often heal quickly. At the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin, we can help you (or your favorite student) feel better soon.

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