Spring and summer sports are ramping up in Oakville / Halton. As school comes to an end soccer, baseball, football, lacrosse, golf, tennis, and beach volley ball amongst others are starting to ramp up. Athletes and teams are starting to increase their training, practice and game schedules.
This is where certain habits in young athletes can set them up for greater success and decrease the chances of injury. While all sports have nuances in the specifics there are some general habits that can be helpful.
Let’s first separate injury in youth sports into acute versus overuse types of injuries. While there can be overlap where an overuse injury has sudden acute pain, it is easiest for our purposes to separate them.
Acute Injury in Youth Sports:
Acute injuries in sports are a sudden injury. They are often a strain or sprain and would also include concussions and bone breaks (fracture). These injuries can happen due to contact, such as knee to knee injuries in soccer, an ankle sprain or break sliding into a bag improperly in baseball, a shoulder dislocation or separation in a fall or with contact. They can also be things like a contusion from a hit with a lacrosse stick or a knee into the thigh.
Some of these injuries are more difficult to prevent. We don’t have as much control with our external environment.
Many of these injuries can be lessened or avoided as well.
- Build Overall Strength – being strong overall is helpful in preventing injuries. For example, having a strong upper body and neck decreases chances of whiplash from heading soccer balls awkwardly, or with a fall. Having overall core and hip strength when in close and contact situations allows for increased maintenance of positioning
- Check your Environment – be aware of ruts
- Build Specific Strength
- Rest and Recovery – having a well rested body and recovering well from increased training helps prevent injuries like muscle strains from sprinting and kicking. This category includes eating for recovery and hydrating but also sleeping well. Think about how a young athletes body may feel after a couple games or matches on a Saturday, then staying up late playing video games, eating chips for dinner and having to wake up early for a couple more games on a Sunday?
- Treat Small Injuries – if your youth player has hurt themselves, it is important to address those injuries. For example why have they sprained their ankle? Was it the field, mechanics, poor proprioception?
Overuse Injury in Youth Sports:
- Avoid early sport specialization – having a diverse skill set, moving in different ways, training different body systems allows for the body to develop in a more well rounded way. Playing one sport or training in one way over a year
- Building General Strength – having a stronger body with more endurance helps prevent overuse types of injuries. Starting a season with “spring training” helps increase tendon and muscular strength and resilience. Timing and planning for this in the general timing of a season is important. Your physio or coaches should be able to help with this.
- Take an Offseason – see the above. If a young athlete is training in one primary sport competitively it is important to have an “offseason”. Yes, even if they love it. Have a period of time where they do more flexible activities. Go for hikes, bike rides, try a different activity etc. This lets the body recover, repair and be ready to ramp up for their next season.
- Rest and Recovery – taking appropriate rest, sleeping well, eating well etc are all things that help the repair of the body during a season.
- Mechanics – starting sport, especially competitive sport with better mechanics is helpful in injury prevention. Good coaching is helpful for this as well as specialized coaching should there be issues.
- Proper Equipment – Wearing equipment that is sport and environment appropriate is helpful in preventing overuse injuries. For example, in box lacrosse running on turf versus thin turf over concrete is very different. Having proper shoes for the surface as well as things like compression socks may help prevent shin splint and achillles tendonitis.
If you have concerns about repeated injuries in your youth athlete or are interested in setting up a program to help prevent injury, our North Oakville Physiotherapists are happy to help.
We are seeing patients in person. We also continue to have virtual availability if you are not able to make it into the clinic. We are able to virtually treat patients from all over Ontario!
Contact us with questions or to book an appointment! If your season has started it is still not too late!