Do you have children or adolescents participating in sport?
There is an upward trend in sport participation amongst children and adolescents which signifies that many young athletes and parents understand the benefits of physical activity beginning at a young age. With this increased participation in sport, it is important to identify factors that may lead to injuries and work towards addressing them to help young athletes achieve success.
How does your young athlete participate in sport?
There are two trends we see in the participation of children and adolescents in sport. The first trend is that young athletes are being pushed into early sport specialization and competing for a specific sport year-round. In the second trend, young athletes may play many different sports year-round and often more than one sport at a time. With both of these trends, it is important to address two key factors. The first factor is volume, which is how much activity the young athlete is doing on a weekly basis. The second factor is maturation, which is the term used for when a child moves towards adulthood and experiences changes to both their height and body weight. Both high volume and maturation are leading factors associated with the development of injuries amongst young athletes.
Sport specialization or playing multiple sports can both result in young athletes participating in a high volume of physical activity every week. Up to 50% of injuries sustained during sport participation may be chronic overuse injuries, and these may result from the training volume being too high without sufficient time during the week to recover. Therefore, scheduling rest days and time away from sport can help prevent such injuries.
Overuse injuries can also occur as a result of repetitive sport specific movements without considering the young athletes overall body development. To help with overall body development, a strength and conditioning program is needed to supplement their sport specific training. An individualised training program that takes into account the young athlete’s current training load, their current growth rate, and their strengths and weaknesses can help the young athlete to develop a well-rounded body and avoid overuse injuries. As every young athlete grows and matures at a different rate, a large group based approach is often not specific enough to adequately prevent injury.
As your child progresses towards adulthood (maturation), there is an associated increased risk of injury. If training is not adapted at each period of growth, or growth spurt, injury can occur as the young athlete needs to adjust to their growing body. This highlights the importance of having your young athlete constantly re-assessed and monitored with individualised training programs to address changes to their body.
Athlete psychological burnout
With both trends of athletes; either having early specialization in their sport or participating in multiple sports, an increased risk of athlete burnout is associated in those athletes with high training volumes and certain perfectionist personalities.
Those young athletes who are concerned about being perfectionists in their sport are noted as having a negative impact on their engagement of their activity and increasing their burnout. Coaches and parents should therefore consider praising athletes for their effort as opposed to only their achievements. Children who have been praised for their efforts following a failure show higher task persistence, task enjoyment and follow up performance. While we do not need to give every child a trophy even if they lose in order to spare their feelings, children do need to be praised for their efforts regardless of the outcome. This has been shown to encourage growth, enjoyment, further improvement in their task and staves off burnout.
To help deal with a high volume of activity, it is important to also schedule specific periods of low or no structured physical activity to also help prevent psychological burnout.
Importance of strength & conditioning coaching and individualized programming
There is strong evidence that supports strength and conditioning coaching reducing the risk of injuries in young athletes. Guidelines on youth exercise training advise regular participation in resistance training to improve overall musculoskeletal health, overall athleticism and reduce the risk of sports related injury.
A strength and conditioning coach has formal training in biomechanics, anatomy and physiology which they draw on to address your young athlete’s training load, maturation (growth) and skill level to help devise an individualized program that helps prevent injuries.
A strength and conditioning coach can help improve your young athlete’s strength, power, speed, flexibility, coordination, agility, reaction time, running technique and footwork.
Without an individualized training program specific to your young athlete, athlete burnout and chronic overuse injuries will continue to occur. Injuries and burnout at a young age may factor into unhealthy physical activity habits later in life.
How can the parents help?
To help reduce the risk of overuse injury in a young athlete, parents should look to manage weekly and yearly participation to ensure adequate rest time for recovery. Rest periods during the week (recovery/off days), rest periods during the month and holidays or time away should be planned in sporting calendars of young athletes.
Any young athlete who is sport-specific should be managed so that they are incorporating a range of different movements to help develop well-rounded bodies and prevent the risk of injuries. This individualized program should be devised by a strength and conditioning coach who has the knowledge to adapt the program to your young athlete’s needs.
Tips to improve your young athlete’s sport experience:
1. Ensure young athletes are getting appropriate recovery time accounting for practice, games and strength and conditioning coaching
- SCHEDULE down time.
2. Book holidays or time away from sport periodically and provide breaks from structured physical activity (workout and training programs)
3. Work with qualified and experienced professionals.
- Young athletes need individualized programs developed for their specific needs, taking into account their sports participation and their physical maturity level
4. Use more effort-based praise rather than performance-based praise. This will help to increase task persistence, follow up performance and overall enjoyment.
5. When your young athlete has a growth spurt or experiences discomfort, pain or injury, don’t delay, have them assessed by one of our trained professionals.
- Our team of experts at Ace Sports Clinic work collaboratively to ensure your Young athlete can give their best, have fun and remain injury-free. At different times of development, they require different therapies. For example, during a large growth spurt, we recommend more massage therapy as this is a period where soft bony injuries can occur when the tendons pull strongly on the bones eg Osgood Schlatters. When addressing and aligning the spine, our chiropractors can assess and treat for scoliosis. When having a growth spurt and needing new shoes, our podiatrists can ensure the correct footwear is being worn at all stages to support your young athlete. Our osteopaths take a holistic approach and can help with things like back pain, muscle strains and shoulder pain.
Want to help your young athlete excel in their sport while reducing the risk of injury? Contact us now to book.
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