Is Your Youth Athlete At Risk For Injury? 5 Simple Tests



Do you have wonderful memories of youth athletics?

Was it church T-ball, grade school soccer, the first tackle football game, cheering on our classmates, or trying out for a varsity team.

We want our own children to experience this same joy and excitement. . . the physical, emotional, and social benefits of participating in organized sports.

The flip side to this coin . . . a study from August 2013 found every 25 seconds a youth athlete suffers an injury severe enough to require an emergency room visit. This makes youth sports a challenging landscape for parents to navigate.

Unfortunately, the medical clearance your child's school or organization requires rules out health risk only.  It's important for preventing life threatening medical emergencies, but the "muscular" and "skeletal" screens are insufficient in demonstrating your child's ability to perform their sports.

Medical screens will not determine risk for injury of the soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments).  Furthermore, these soft tissue injuries or faulty movement patterns in our children will appear as pain, injury, and arthritis in adulthood.

The good news, when we identify the faulty repetitive movement patterns that lead to injury early a correction is often simple. This prevents a future of degenerative joints, ligaments and spinal discs.

How can we help them perform at their absolute best, while also protecting them from damage to their growing bodies?

There are some quick tests you can perform at home to see if their strength, agility, and movement is ready for their athletic season.

1. Squat

Start by standing with feet shoulder width apart.  Squat down as far as possible.  Upper legs should be parallel to the floor and heels should be able to remain flat on the ground.

2. Balance with Eyes Closed

Stand on one foot with your hands on your hips.  Close your eyes and hold this position for 20 seconds on each side. This should be done without leaning or loss of balance.

3. Toe Touch

To see if lower body muscles are ready for quick starts and heavy lifting, hamstring length should be tested. Put your feet together, bend over and touch your toes. You should be able to do this without rounding your back.

4. Push Up

Start by lying face down on the floor.  The hands are placed beside each shoulder.  As you push up, the back, hips, and knees need to be in a straight line.

5. Overhead Reach

With your head, back and heels against a wall and arms straight in front, lift your arms overhead and touch the wall with your thumbs, if your lower back arches or you can't reach the wall, there are likely movement restrictions in the back or shoulders.

The inability to complete any of these tests correctly (or if discomfort or stiffness is present), is an indication for further testing. The next step is a functional movement screen. Our specialty trained therapists use this tool to identify risk factors for ankle, knee, hip and shoulder injuries. If they identify an increase in risk factors, corrective exercises can be prescribed to mitigate the risk.

Is all of this really necessary for my healthy child?

A 2016 review of literature indicates youth athletes especially, due to their developing musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems should undergo pre-participation musculoskeletal screening for identification of movement limitations.

The amazing thing with children is the corrective strategies we implement tend to clean up the problem FAST. Generally, no time is lost from their sports training program and they continue stronger and performing at a higher level than before.

To inquire about a functional movement screen with a Doctor of Physical Therapy for you or your child, click HERE to fill out a short form and you will hear from us soon!