3 Ways to Avoid Youth Athletic Injuries
Today’s youth seem to be on either end of the active spectrum. On one side you have kids who are doing nothing more than playing on their iPod. On the other you have athletes playing on 3 travel teams in one season. I have heard stories of some athletes playing in 5 games in one day. The days of kids playing outside, playing one sport, on one team at a time seem to be unfortunately behind us.
As a result, we now have a very sedentary and injured youth population. With the rise in youth travel teams, competition and the pressure to compete at the highest level, our youth are experiencing sport related injuries at an all-time high. In fact, youth injuries have increased 7x over the past 10 years. More alarming is the fact that over half of these injuries are due to overuse. The good news is overuse injuries, with the right awareness and action, are very avoidable.
If your child is going to miss his or her sport, the research shows it is most likely going to be due to overuse. When you combine the repetitive stress of activities like running, jumping and/or throwing with a joint or tissue that cannot handle the stress - inflammation and pain arise. Continue to play through that discomfort and now your child is out with foot, ankle, knee, hip, elbow or shoulder pain. To make matters worse, this pain or discomfort causes movement compensation, placing more stress on their bodies; hence, the cycle continues.
- Do not play the same sport year-round
- If your child only plays one sport, allow for 1-2 months rest
- Allow for two weeks of rest between seasons of different sports
- Properly hydrate before, during and after competition and practice
- Consume proper nutrition before and after competition and practice
#2 Train (get bulletproof)
One of the best ways to avoid athletic injuries is to have your child participate in an age-appropriate, strength and conditioning program. A significant factor in the rise in youth athletic injuries is the fact that these athletes are largely over-competing while largely underprepared. Their bodies, strength levels and fitness are not at the level to handle the stress of a competitive season or seasons. This is where a strength and conditioning program comes in. Not only will this program teach them the key elements of injury prevention, like proper mobility, strength and landing mechanics, it will help build their strength and fitness so their bodies can stay strong and healthy during the long season. The evidence is very clear – participate in a well-balanced, age appropriate training program and see a drastic decrease in sports-related injury.
- Participate in a strength and conditioning program at least 2-3 months out of the year
- Improve flexibility and mobility
- Learn proper landing and change of direction mechanics
- Build total-body strength
- Build strong aerobic fitness
We can all agree a proper warm-up is crucial for improving performance and reducing injury. The research shows a proper warm-up can decrease injuries up to 10x. Warm-ups have been also shown to significantly decrease the risk of non-contact ACL injuries, which are on the rise especially in females. A proper warm-up will increase their body’s range-of-motion and prepare their tissue to handle the high speed and forces involved in their sport. This is why we put such a large emphasis on teaching proper dynamic warm-ups with all of our athletes. Not only are they going to better prepare to train in the gym, but they are then able to take the warm-ups learned and complete them before both practice and competition. This has lead to some great improvements in performance and a drastic reduction in injury.
Here is a video demonstrating one of our favorite athletic stretches:
- Warm-Up before every training session, practice and competition
- Each warm-up should last 10-15 minutes
- Start slow with easy stretching
- Progress to mobility exercises like body-weight squats and lunges
- Finish with exercises that mimic the sport like shuffles, back-pedal and sprints