Injury Mitigation for Youth Athletes
The possibility of injury always weighs on our minds as we watch our athletes perform their sport or simply the craziness of youth. As coaches and parents we often forget that we, too, were once fearless and bulletproof! Injuries can’t be prevented, however injury mitigation and management can be substantially improved through three simple practices:
- Proper Preparation (Warm up, Flexibility and Activation)
- Proper Training (Techniques and Volumes)
- Appropriate Recovery (Nutrition, Active De-loading and Sleep)
In the current times of athletic, academic and social demands we must all remain aware and informed of the mental and physical stress that our kids are expected to endure. Our mind and body can’t necessarily determine the difference in the type of stress, so it is important to be appropriately conditioned and recovered, accounting for all bouts of stress regardless of its origin.
Assess + Learn + Plan + Execute = Success
The old analogy of more is better does not always hold true, and usually hurts if not properly balanced. Too much is simply too much, and we can be overloaded beyond capacity without proper recovery. What is too much? That’s the million dollar question. Everyone has a different capacities, but regardless of capacity overload leads to mental fatigue, muscular fatigue, muscle and joint injury and lost confidence. We often see the signs of these in our athletes and want them to just power through, that isn’t usually the best solution.
An injury can be the result of many factors, some preventable, many not. Generally we have found that an injury occurs for 5 main reasons:
- Improper training (Overtraining, undertraining or no training)
- Lack of strength (Neuromuscular process and functional)
- Improper load or impact (which can be greatly improved with technique and strength training)
- Mental and/or Physical Fatigue (often due to too much stress and not enough recovery)
- On field/court contact (sometimes avoidable, but not always)
All coaches and parents must understand the level of stress our youth are in, it isn’t the same as it was for us. With a proper understanding coaches must incorporate a proper rest/work ratio that allows athletes to progress and develop so they can perform at their best. During rest phases athletes must focus on getting extra sleep, drinking a lot of water, and eating healthy. With adequate rest athletes will perform more and at a higher level during the work phase.
Regardless of what activity or sport our athletes (any child age 7 and up, based on the Mayo Clinic) are participating in, they should learn proper preparation and warm up, correct movement patterns and have strength training as part of their weekly schedule. All three should be non-negotiable as they lead to injury mitigation and maximized performance.
As coaches and parents it is our job to prepare, protect, and enable our athletes to be better prepared for sports and for life. Teaching kids what it looks like to properly balance work and rest will serve them well long after sports. And it will serve you well as they perform at a higher level and last longer on the court or field.