Dealing with illness

Posted: December 11, 2012 in Tips & Hints
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First up, I’m no expert in these matters, but like a lot of things in life, often in areas of managing illness in young athletes common sense doesn’t seem to be that common!

Here’s the hypothetical: your child has had a particular open on their race calendar for the whole season, maybe its even a round of the NJTS.  Three or four days before the event they come down with a runny nose, swollen glands and a nasty cough.  Approaching event day, there’s no real improvement – despite rest, vitamin C and echinacea.  They’ve been resting so they haven’t really done any efforts to test the effect the cold might have.  What to do?

It’s a tough one.  I think you want to get as much as advice as possible from both western and eastern medical practitioners.  One rule of thumb is: if it’s above the shoulders race, if it’s below don’t.  That is, if its in your chest don’t do it, but if its just in your head (throat, nose, etc), there’s a good chance you won’t be too physically disabled or adversely effected.  Another rule of thumb I use is to take their HR: if its more than 10-15bpm above their normal resting HR, pull the pin!

For mine, its about weighing up the importance of the event.  If its a simple open with nothing more than some dollars on the line, I personally would advise them against racing.  But what if it was the State Champs, an event that will determine the selection for the State team!  What if their main goal for the season revolved around a good performance with the hope of making that team, what then?

Again, try and take the emotion out of the decision for them.  Tell them, this particular under-age championship is just a tiny blip in the whole of their cycling career – give it some perspective.  No one remembers a junior champion and they don’t want to screw up the rest of their season by going deep when they’re sick and then getting sicker.  Start to get them to focus on, or start to form, their next goals.

Kids are going to want to ride, it's got to be the parents roll to guide them to make the right decision.

Kids are going to want to ride, even if they’re sick, it’s got to be the parents roll to guide them to make the right decision.

I’ve seen kids racing sick time and again, and I think it’s our responsibility as parents to help our kids make the right and sensible decision and definitely not to push them to ride when ill.  They’ll be other opens and they’ll be other championships.  It’s not worth racing when your really sick and its only worth racing if you’re a bit sick if its a significant event.

The other issue that has raised its head in recent times is young athletes going to National Championships as part of State teams when they’re sick.  They’ve been selected and they want to race more than anything in the world, but by mixing closely – sitting next to someone on a plane, sharing a room, sharing an ice bath – there is a very real chance they will infect other members of the team.  This is very unfair and needs to be monitored closely by Team Management… something that perhaps hasn’t been done that well in the past.

Love to hear others thoughts and experiences.

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