preventing injuries in youth sport
An article was just published in USA Today about the number of injuries in youth sports. One out if every five youth seen in the ER is for a sports related injury (Healy, 2013). With the rates of injury at such a high level it is important to understand some of the risk factors for injury and work to educate youth coaches, parents, athletes and administrators on how to participate safely.
Some of the risk factors for injuries include higher BMI, poor technical skill, poor conditioning, poor strength and coordination and hypermobility (Abernathy & Bleakley, 2007).
As a coach it is vital to teach young athletes correct form with specific skills to improve proficiency in their sport. Focusing on skill development with young athletes allows them to perfect basic movements and set the foundation for future athletic growth. Spending too many hours practicing with young athlete and having them running laps for conditioning may not be the best way to improve their skills.
As strength and conditioning coaches we can help by appropriately conditioning our young athletes through teaching movement patterns, acceleration, speed, deceleration and change if direction skills in a way that incorporates learning correct techniques but is still fun to perform. When athletes get fatigued their form breaks down leading to overuse and potentially acute injuries. We can improve their ability to train and higher levels by focusing on technique and strategically introducing fatigue in order to adapt to a different stress and then recovering adequately after each practice session.
Starting a strengthening program to improve neuromuscular control and efficiency can also help reduce injuries (Myer et al, 2011). Certain biomechanics place athletes at an increased risk of injury such as a valgus knee position for ACL tears(Mandelbaum et al, 2005). Training the body to recruit the right muscles for the correct form can rewire the nervous system and help improve strength, control and proprioception. Athletes that have incorporated neuromuscular training into their programs have demonstrated a decreased risk of injury to the lower extremity (Soliagard et al, 2008, Mandelbaum et al, 2005). To learn about which exercises have been effective and how to do them properly speak to an athletic trainer, strength and conditioning coach, physical therapist or sports medicine doctor who specializes with working with younger athletes.
We need to do a better job of protecting our young athletes and and starting them on a road to lifelong success and enjoyment in sports. Keeping them healthy through simple exercises and smart progressions can be the answer to reducing their risk of suffering an injury.
Abernathy, L, Bleakley, C. (2007). Strategies to prevent injury in adolescent sport: a systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 41: 627-638
Healy, M. (2013, August 6). 1.35 million youth each year have serious sports injuries. USA Today.http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/08/06/injuries-athletes-kids-sports/2612429/
Mandelbaum, B. et al (2005). Effectiveness of a neuromuscular and proprioceptive training program in preventing anterior cruciate ligament injuries in female athletes. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 33 (7):1003-1010
Myer, G. et al. (2011). When to initiate integrative neuromuscular training to reduce sports-related injuries in youth? Current Sports Medicine Reports, 10 (3): 155-166.
Soligard, T. et al. (2008). Comprehensive warm up programmeto prevent injuries in young female footballers: cluster randomized controlled trial. British Medical Journal, 337: 2469-2477
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