Jan 29, 2015Safer Youth Athletes
By Tim Koba, ATC,CSCS,PES,CES,CMT
An article recently published in USA Today about the number of injuries in youth sports reported that one out of every five youths seen in the ER is there 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 body mass index (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 and movement patterns 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.
As strength and conditioning coaches, we can help by appropriately conditioning young athletes while teaching optimal movement patterns, acceleration, speed, deceleration, and change of direction skills in ways that make the activities enjoyable.
When athletes get fatigued, their form breaks down, leading to overuse and potentially acute injuries. We can improve their ability to train at 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 biomechanical demands place athletes at 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 re-wire 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 extremities (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 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.
Tim Koba, ATC, CSCS, PES, LMT, is Manager for Athletic Performance and Athletic Training Services at Cayuga Medical Center at Island Health and Fitness in Ithaca, N.Y.
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 programme to prevent injuries in young female footballers: cluster randomized controlled trial. British Medical Journal, 337: 2469-2477