By Karyn Gallivan, MS, ATC, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, NASM-CPT
Contributor, Sports+Fitness Network
I spend a lot of time teaching online classes, but recently, I have been doing a lot of teaching recently in “live” settings. The topics are typically training for, trying to prevent, or how to treat injuries to our younger athletes.
But first, a little context: As a Certified Athletic Trainer and Strength & Conditioning Coach, I am often asked to speak to teams (and their coaches) at a local university. I do my requisite spiel about the importance of nutrition, appropriate sleep, adequate recovery (treating sleep & recovery as two similar, but important factors), training to include the typical weaknesses, and trying to prevent some of the more common injuries for each sport.
Invariably, however, one of these young athletes will ask me about an injury, or injuries, that they are currently dealing with –and, it turns out, many of these young athletes have sustained more injuries than it seems they should. In fact, there are always a few that have already had several surgeries. So, where to begin?
I think that it is important to realize that many of our youth sport coaches who, while they are doing the best they can, and are often very knowledgeable about their sport, they are not always equipped to design and carry out appropriate conditioning programs. An appropriate conditioning program for any athlete at any age would include activities that strengthened typical weak areas, as well as preparing the athlete to excel in their sport.
For example, many young athletes do not have good posture or a strong core. In addition, they may have weak ankle and hip stabilizers, which often show up as an often-sprained ankles or knee injuries. Shoulder injuries are also not an uncommon occurrence.
So, what is the solution? Well, obviously, to have the appropriate strength and conditioning professionals around when needed, along with sufficient time to add this important component would be ideal. Without that, however, youth sport coaches would do well by our young athletes to consistently spend time addressing the typically troublesome areas that I mentioned above. All-too-often, however, youth sport teams spend one or two nights a week practicing and all weekend traveling to and from tournaments where they play upwards of eight games or more. In addition, many are often taking lessons where they continue to work on sport skills, with the hope of securing a college scholarship… In reality, there seems to be a lot of athletes spending many hours playing their sport, but no real opportunity to “build strong athletes.”
Honestly, I am not sure how to fix this, but I do know that many of these athletes show up to their college team burned out and out of shape; and, often sustaining an injury within the first few weeks of training… Please start this conversation with parents and coaches of young athletes. Research how to design appropriate, but efficient strength and conditioning programs for each age group.