Injuries In Youth Sports; Preventable or Inevitable?
Injuries in sports are almost a guarantee. Especially if you play them long enough. All athletes, professional, college, high-school, and recreational alike have this in common. However, with todays sports craze and the aspirations of our youth to grow up to be LeBron James, Tom Brady, or Bryce Harper, more and more injuries are seen each year due to the fact that more kids are playing sports, more kids are playing sports year round, and more kids are specializing in sports. Lower extremity injuries (ankle & knee primarily) are some of the most common. While soft tissue injuries can and do occur in our youth, and can be something that lingers for months at a time, they tend to have less of an impact as a serious ankle or knee injury. The knee injury specifically is becoming more and more common in males and females alike, in contact and non-contact sports as well. ACL injuries alone have soared to over 250,000 a year (Parkkari et al., 2008) with billions of dollars (CDC, 2006) being spent on surgery, rehab, and post ACL recovery. Thats not including injuries to the LCL, MCL, PCL, meniscus, patella tendon etc nor considering the increased risk of injury and osteoarthritis post ACL tear.
With all of that in mind, the question of the day is obviously, can you prevent it? I mean in essence, knee injuries in youth and high school sports are a disease. They are something you see way too commonly and something that effects entire seasons and even futures of today’s athletes. I hate to be the barer of bad news, but the only guaranteed way to prevent a knee injury in sport is to not play sports. Even then you have a pretty good chance of messing up your knee playing in the backyard or walking down some stairs. (Don’t give up on me just yet, there is still hope!) Just like driving a car, you cannot 100% prevent all car accidents, however there are things you can do to greatly reduce the risk of these incidents or at least reduce the magnitude of the event. Things like driving the speed limit, using a seatbelt, keeping a certain distance between cars, looking twice at intersections, not texting and driving, etc. With that in mind there are things you can do to greatly reduce the risk of a serious knee injury, or like a car wreck greatly reduce the magnitude of the injury.
Having an Off-season: Kids play too many sports or they play certain sports year round. Studies show that athletes need to take time off to train there bodies to prepare for the grueling demands of the season ahead of them. Having an off-season allows them to gain strength, recover mentally, fix imbalances, open new pathways of motor development, and much more. Think about it, even professionals at the highest level have an off-season. Baseball is especially bad about this. Your kid will be better prepared to play at a higher level if he/she gets a break from the demands, corrects and counters repetitive movement patterns, and rejuvenates their mind and body.
Getting proper training: I could say just come train at NLFAD and be done with this section, but since I know that is not an option for everyone, I will elaborate. Training needs to incorporate PROGRESSIVE Mo-Sta-Bility (mobility, stability, flexibility) training, PROGRESSIVE proprioceptive training, PROGRESSIVE core strengthening (both stability and functional) PROGRESSIVE 3 dimensional strength training, PROGRESSIVE plyometric/shock training, PROGRESSIVE conditioning and PROGRESSIVE kinesthetic awareness training (which could be bundled into proprioceptive but for this case it will be considered movement technique training – basically the skill of moving efficiently and effectively 3 dimensionally) This systematic approach to training can decrease the chances of a serious injury up to 90%! Sounds worth it to me.
Fulfilling 3 basic NEEDS of an athlete: After consulting with a colleague it was made aware to me that so many athletes both young and old alike are stripped of certain needs to function properly and at a highly efficient level.
WATER. You need water, our body is over 50% water and our muscle is an even higher percentage than that. If you are dehydrated your body cannot function properly and your chance for injury GOES UP! More water less cokes.
SLEEP. Kids need sleep. If they are up all night with Joey or Susie at the hotel pool the night before a tournament or a big game, guess what, his/her body will not function on a high level and chance of injury GOES UP! Get your 8 hours.
NUTRITION. Todays fast lifestyle has completely put nutrition on the back burner, no pun intended. Our body is like a car. Most of us would like to perform like a Ferrari on game day instead of a Prius. Put mud in a Ferrari and see what happens. You need to fuel your body like how you want to perform, high octane. Fried fatty foods, high salt content foods, hard to digest foods, acidic cokes = mud in the gas tank = non-optimal body function and the chance of injury GOES UP! Fuel properly.
In summary, injuries are in every sport and are not 100% preventable. But things can be done to greatly reduce the risk. The effects of an injury could go long beyond the season it happened in. Missed scholarships, multiple surgeries, lost time from the game you love. Take an off-season and get on a progressive training program, get sleep, hydrate, and fuel properly during your season. These are just a few of the things you can do to help reduce the risk of such a substantial incident.
NLFAD has spent years researching and developing a program that is designed not only for performance but for this very thing. Our progressive three dimensional approach hits all of the listed elements and many more. Please take advantage of the opportunity to give yourself or your kid the best chance at doing what it is he or she loves.
Below are a few links to articles related to the topic of overuse injuries and youth sports.
credit Kye Heck CSCS CAFS PES USAW NG360-GPS (APEC)