7 Ways Your Youth Athlete Can Avoid Injury This Season

  The summer is coming to a close and preseason for fall sports has begun.

Is your youth athlete ready for the season?

 

Football game. Training matches junior teams and fans.

 

This year it is estimated that 60 million children and teens will participate in youth sports

activities. This is great news! The benefits of athletics are numerous:

  • teamwork
  • healthy habits
  • discipline
  • self esteem
  • leadership

Unfortunately, we see many of these youth athletes in our clinic. Most commonly we see

sprains, strains and tendinitis. However, stress fractures and concussions also have a high

occurrence in youth sports.

 

Rates of injury are rapidly increasing, with 62% of injuries occurring during practice.  Many

of these are a result of overuse and burn out of the athletes.

 

But why?

There seems to be more competition and higher intensity of training at a younger age. In

addition, fewer students are achieving "physical readiness" -  the athletes ability to

meet the demands of the sport.

 

We assume kids will be able to perform on the field even though today's kids are less

active outside their sport's season. Therefore, 50% of injures in organized sports could be

avoided by assuring physical readiness.

 

The best way to do this is get kids active at a young age.  They need to jump rope, play tag,

swim, kick, and run.  These activities educate a child's body to jump, twist, and turn, so they

can compete safely in sports.

 

Sports require complex and coordinated movements that occur when muscles and joints

must respond to extreme movements with ease.  This is first happens on the playground.

However, when a child sits around playing video games, their body is not going to be ready

for the demands on the athletic field.

 

So how can we help young athletes participate more safely and enjoy the benefits of

youth sports?

 

     1. Preseason conditioning

Injures often occur when athletes are fatigued. Preseason conditioning decreases injuries and

increases the athletes performance.

 

     2. Adequate Hydration

Heat related injures are particularly dangerous in children because they perspire less. The

result is dehydration or heat stroke.

 

     3. Appropriate Equipment

Appropriate equipment should be issued and fit to each child.  Equipment should be checked for

damage at the start of the session and again weekly. Since children and adolescents grow quickly,

proper fit should be rechecked regularly throughout the session.

 

     4. Nutrient dense diet

A wholesome well balanced diet is essential to injury prevention and performance. An athlete

needs a balance of proteins to build and repair tissue, carbohydrates for energy, fruits and

vegetables for healing antioxidants.  Many children, especially teenagers consume a lot of empty

calories that cause a nutrient deficiency. Nutrient dense foods will aid in repair of the body's

cells, but deficits can result in injury.  What you put in your body fuels performance and health.

 

     5. Adequate Sleep

The body requires 8-10 hours of sleep to allow proper recovery and rebuilding of tissue stressed during

athletics. Although it may be counter intuitive, you must stop, rest, and recover.  "Downtime"

will allow you to achieve your goal of a high level of fitness.

 

      6. Proper Warm up and Cool Downs

Prior to practice or games, a dynamic warm up is needed to get blood and oxygen to the muscles.

Equally as important, cool down after play is needed to allow the heart rate to return to its resting

level.  Do not let your athlete arrive late or leave early and miss these vital parts of practice.

 

     7. Know your Child and Their vulnerabilities

Having a past injury puts you at risk for another overuse injury (a result of repetitive

activity without proper rest). There is also an increased injury risk during growth spurts. Knowing

these things can allow you to monitor your child's performance and get them help before an

injury puts them on the side lines.

 

Our goal is for youth athletes to play at their peak performance, injury free, while still being

able to handle the load of academics, friends, family, and other interests. If your child has had

previous injuries or complains of any discomfort as they start the season, a Functional

Movement Screen (FMS) will evaluate injury risk and if they are ready to return.  The physical

therapist can then prescribe specific activities to strengthen the "weak links" and prevent further injury.

Call today to talk to a physical therapist and see if a Functional Movement Screen would benefit

your athlete.