A new school year has begun, which for all the parents out there it means the start of sports one more. This got me thinking about physical activity in relation to youth, and so I decided that I would share with you some of the ways to make sure our young athletes are kept healthy and injury free.
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 lookout for injury. One of the key things in doing so is making sure that you (or anyone involved with athletics) are keeping an eye on out for drops in performance – as this is one of the key signs that an injury has occurred. There may also be changes in mechanics, as well as signs that point to the fact that the athlete is in some sort of pain.
The important thing to remember is that the earlier the injury is recognized, the earlier it can be properly addressed – and treated. If you think that someone is suffering from an injury is it vital that you seek have a physical therapist evaluate the athlete to confirm. It is a common misconception that a prescription is required for this, so let me be clear, it is not. Also at times it can take a while to get in to see your doctor, and playing through pain can make injuries significantly worse. Bottom line is that the earlier your child gets evaluated, the earlier treatment and healing can begin.
Proper Rest and Recovery
One thing that parents of young athletes (or the athletes themselves) rarely consider is the fact that proper rest and recovery is extremely important. Think about it this way – professional athletes take – at the very least – 3 months off of each year. However, I do understand that for many high school athletes, especially those with a single focus, 3 months can seem like an eternity. I guess what I am trying to say is this…if professional athletes take 3 months off to allow their bodies to rest and heal up, why do we not do allow the same with our young athletes? After all they are the ones whose bodies are continuously changing, and thus they need the time to develop and build their strength.
That being said, it is completely okay for them to cross train and work on strength during this “rest” time. Perhaps having him/her work on other muscle groups that support their sport, they just need to make sure they are taking a break from performing the same movements and working those muscles and joints that are most used by their sport.
Pay Attention to Mechanics
Mechanics is another thing that is often overlooked while young athletes are training, and playing their sports. Good mechanics allow for proper stresses and forces to be placed throughout our bodies. When children, and young adults, play sports with poor mechanics some part of their body is going to break down. Injuries such as little leaguer’s elbow can be caused by poor core strength, and poor strength of the muscles the support the shoulder blade region – which puts extra stress on the child’s elbow when they are throwing. I have also noticed when evaluating female athletes that most have poor hip control and core strength, which is linked to ACL tears.
In general – this is a huge area of opportunity for trainers, coaches and parents to collaborate with a physical therapist. We study, read research, and are extremely particular about teaching proper form and body mechanics to athletes (of all ages). We can help your young athlete learn proper training of mechanics from sport specific mechanics to mechanics with off-season training programs. These things are absolutely essential to teach your children so their bodies to work correctly and they avoid injuries that could have long-term effects.
So, all that being said I encourage you to give us a call and make an appointment for your young athlete to come in for a consultation with us. We can make sure that there are not any current injuries, and teach them what they need to know in order to play safe.
Also – if you suspect that there is already an injury it is essential that you get in touch with a physical therapist immediately so that we can determine if this is true and start the road to recovery.