As we approach the summer and our young athletes are working on their skill for their favorite sport, it is important to recognize ways to keep our young athletes healthy and injury free. A study done by two researchers from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia reported that “over 4 million sports or recreational injuries are sustained by school-age children per year in the USA”.1 Due to these stats is likely you hear the term “injury prevention” thrown around to assist with training of our athletes.
A review of current literature done in 2012 found that recognition of injury, proper rest and attention to mechanics are factors that may decrease not only the number of injuries, but also the severity of injuries in our school-aged population.
Recognition of Injury
It is essential that all coaches, parents, athletic trainers, physical therapist, or anybody that works with young athletes to be on the look out for injury. In my experience working with athletes it is important to watch for drops in performance, changes in mechanics, and any signs of pain. The earlier you recognize an injury and get treated properly, the better. It is important to know that to seek out a PT evaluation you DO NOT need a prescription. Many times getting into see your doctor takes days or even weeks. The earlier you or your child gets evaluated, the earlier treatment can begin. Many times when you sustain an injury it is a perfect opportunity to see PT directly rather than wait. Playing through pain can significantly make injuries worse. Also, many times when we see children in PT for an injury – their deficits run much deeper than the injury and if they are addressed early this will will help reduce the risk of injury.
Think about this, professional athletes take AT LEAST 3 months off of their sport each year. Yes, 3 months. For many high school athletes, especially those that are focused on one sport, 3 months can seem like an eternity. I pose the question – if ELITE athletes take 3 months off to allow their bodies to rest and heal up, why do we not do the same with our young athletes, whose bodies are continuously changing and need to develop and build strength. During this “rest” time it is completely appropriate to cross train and work on strengthening / training other muscle groups that support the child’s main sport. Sufficient rest is a serious concern in our young population, continue to follow our blog as there will be one focused on this topic!
Attention to mechanics
Good mechanics allow for proper stresses and forces to be place throughout our bodies. When children are forced to do activities or sports through poor mechanics, some part of their body is going to break down. Injuries such as little leaguer’s elbow can certainly be caused by poor core strength, poor strength of the muscles the support the shoulder blade region, and thus when throwing the child puts extra stress on their elbow. When evaluating female athletes I tend to find that most have very poor hip control and core strength. These findings are showing more and more to be linked with ACL tears. This is a huge area of opportunity for trainers, coaches and parents to collaborate with physical therapist who study, read research, and are extremely particular about form and body mechanics. Proper training of mechanics from sport specific mechanics to mechanics with off-season training programs (lifting, plyometrics, etc) is absolutely essential to teach our children’s bodies to work correctly.
Stay tuned to our blog as we continue to break down Little Leaguers elbow, ACL tears in high school females, proper rest, and ways to reduce injuries by training correctly.
1. Franklin CC. Weiss JM. Stopping sports injuries in kids: an overview of the last year in publications. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2012 Feb;24(1) 64-67.