If you (or your child) are getting burnt out and injured playing and practicing for just one sport, stop and read on. Besides the obvious overuse injuries, there are many benefits for young athletes to take a break from their sport of choice and participate in other activities through the year.

As the money paid to professional athletes has grown, as the competition for college scholarships has increased, the importance of becoming very good at one sport has increased as well. In years past most kids would play 2-3 sports at different times during the year. We would end one season, maybe rest for a few weeks and then begin another. This is happening less and less over time. There is a tremendous amount of pressure being placed on kids to choose one sport and dedicate the whole year in refining the skills it takes to perform this one sport well.  This philosophy may help the young athlete hone certain skills at a faster rate than others, but it also poses some significant problems.

The incidence of overuse type injuries has increased dramatically in recent years.  Dr. James Andrews, one of the countries leaders in Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery, has seen a 4 times increase in these overuse injures in the past 5 years. More surgeries for chronic sports injuries are being performed on younger and younger kids. As the young athlete is asked to perform the same tasks, same skills and have the same stresses placed on the body by one single sport the repetitive trauma accumulates without the time to recover.  This constant bombardment in young, growing tissue causes breakdown and injury. The change over to a new sport every few months places different stresses on the body and allows for the tissues that were used in the previous sport to recover and heal.  Common sense would dictate that if a young athlete specializes in one sport, they would become better and reach higher levels of college and professional participation. However as Dr. Andrews points out, the increased incidence of injury tends to lead these promising athletes to miss significant playing time and ultimately leave the sport they love.

Another benefit to playing multiple sports is the development of more complete athleticism. Different sports require different skills which may compliment those in the primary sport. The footwork and endurance needed in soccer will help improve the ability to play basketball or football for example. The hand-eye coordination in baseball will help in volleyball, hockey and other sports. Each sport will have something that ultimately leads to the improvement in the whole athletic package.

If the young athlete is not interested in playing other sports, there are ways to minimize the risk of over use injuries. Even professional athletes have an off season where they stop playing their sport. This does not necessarily mean to stop being active, but it does mean to rest from the repetitive strain caused by the sport. The higher level athletes will use their off seasons to work on their strength, flexibility and endurance while allowing sport specific traumatized areas to heal. Sports Medicine / Sport Conditioning centers with knowledgeable staff are great resources that can lead you into improving the young athlete in safe and effective ways.

The bodies of young athletes are a growing and developing mechanism. They cannot handle the stresses placed by doing something over and over for a long period of time without some recovery time. Playing multiple sports, seeing a Sport Conditioning Specialist, and participating in FAST type training classes during rest periods from the primary sport will allow for development of the athlete as a whole and ultimately lead to improved overall performance.

 

In almost all aspects in today’s society, it seems like kids are acting and performing much older than their age. From communication on the internet, to sociologic decisions to participating in sports.

The level of sophistication is advanced compared to many years ago.

Unfortunately, the development of the body has not and will never catch up to the demands of today’s world. We are seeing more and more injuries in those who participate in sports as kids and those injuries are more similar to those we see in adults. If we cannot force Mother Nature to adjust as quickly as we would like then we must make adjustments ourselves so that we can prevent some of these injuries.48 million young people participate in sports between the ages of 5 and 18. There are 2 million High School Athletes who are responsible for 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations each year. Injuries are going to occur, but The Center for Disease Control estimates ½ of the injuries in youth sports are preventable. Here are some ways to decrease the risk we all take when participating in sport.

1. Equipment: Each sport has its own equipment.One of the easiest and best ways to prevent some injuries is to make sure that the equipment used is in good shape and is fitted well. This is critical in sports, such as football, baseball and hockey, where there is a large amount of equipment worn. Helmets, shoulder pads, hip and thigh pads as well as others need to be sized well so that they can serve the functions that they were designed. This includes one of the more hated to wear pieces of equipment, the mouth guard. Each association has equipment fitting specification of their websites and should be reviewed prior to purchasing.

2. Build a Strong Foundation: Once the sport is picked and the equipment fit properly, it is important to learn the fundamentals and basic techniques. Many injuries are caused by the athlete attempting to perform tasks they are not ready for or doing something incorrectly. Unfortunately some youth sport coaches are well intentioned but not well trained. Seek out leagues that have their coaches go through training and certification processes that ensure they know how to coach the fundamentals of the sport. This makes the sport more fun for the athlete as well as safer for all. As the skill of the athlete improves, it is also important to learn the proper performance training techniques. The demands of the sport on the body demand proper preparation. Organizations such as the National Strength and Conditioning Association have strict criteria and maintain certification, CSCS, for those who specialize in how to properly train athletes of all ages. 

3. Warm-up & Cool down: Do not be in a rush to either play the game or, once the game is over, get on to the next task. Proper warm up and cool down is critical for injury prevention. At one time pre game or practice routines were long static stretches. We now know that stretches held for long periods of time will cause weakness for the short term. This is why we do more dynamic type stretching and warming up prior to participation. It is important to get the muscles warm and to achieve the proper length in a dynamic way so that they are prepared to do the functions we are about to ask of them. The PEP program was developed by Southern California University specifically for female soccer and was shown to significantly decrease the incidence of ACL injuries in that population. Other similar programs have been developed and can be accessed through a strength and conditioning specialist. Once the game or practice is complete than a proper cool down is needed. This is when the longer held stretching is done so that as the muscle cools it is maintained in a lengthened position. 

4. Hydration: Another critical aspect in both injury prevention and performance is hydration levels. Especially in Arizona it is very important to maintain proper hydration levels. This needs to be maintained at all times not just prior to or during the athletic event. Monitor urine colors. The color of the athletes urine should be equivalent to lemon aide not apple juice. Make sure that the athlete is drinking water throughout the day, every day. For every 2% decrease in hydration levels, there is a 10% decrease in muscle performance. There have also been correlations made between dehydration and slower reaction times as well as poor decision making. Both of these can lead to potential injuries. It is recommended on game or practice day to drink 10 – 15 oz 2 – 3 hours prior, 8 – 10 oz 15 minutes prior and 8 -10 oz every 15 to 20 minutes of participation.

5. Diversify: One troubling aspect of youth sports in today’s society is the trend to specialize in one sport earlier and earlier. This specialization has lead to overuse injuries where we used to not see. Playing multiple sports will reduce the overuse stress placed on tissues as well as to help develop overall athletic skills instead of just those used in one sport. As the athlete develops, and the body matures, then the risk of the overuse and repetitive trauma decreases.Sports for young people can be fun, rewarding and safe with just some proper preparations. Do not shy away from having your child participate in sport to avoid the risk of injury. Take the precautions and preparations listed above so that your child can take full advantage of what sports can offer.

 To recap: 

  • Use the proper equipment and make sure that it is in good working order and fitted correctly.
  • Learn the fundamentals of the sport and get the correct training.
  • Perform a good dynamic warm up and proper cool down.
  • Maintain an adequate hydration level.
  • Do not be in a rush to specialize in one sport. Participate in a number of sports to acquire more all around athletic skills and reduce overuse and repetitive trauma.

 

 

Does your neck hurt reading this? Spending alot of time on the computer can cause shoulder, neck and mid-back tightness and pain. That can lead to other problems like pinched nerves, compensations and muscle degeneration. Other times you might experience muscle tightness and spasms from a sports injury or ‘over-doing it’ either in the gym, on the playing field or just in the garden!  Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN) can alleviate chronic and acute pain.

TDN is a treatment for muscular tightness and spasm which commonly follows injuries and often accompanies the degenerative processes. This muscular tightness and spasm will cause compression and irritation of the nerves exiting the spine. When the nerves are irritated, they cause a protective spasm of all the muscles to which they are connected. This may lead to carpel tunnel, tendonitis, osteoarthritis, decreased mobility and chronic pain.

How does TDN work? Small, thin needles are inserted in the muscles at the trigger points causing the pain referral. The muscles then contract and release, improving flexibility of the muscle and decreasing symptoms.

This is definitely a helpful therapy technique that relieves pain for many people. If you think it might help you, contact Foothills Sports Medicine–North Central Phoenix or Old Town Scottsdale for a Rapid Recovery® assessment.  https://foothillsrehab.com/contact-us.html

Medicine balls are weighted balls usually from 4 to 20 pounds that can be lifted, thrown, or slammed to improve strength, speed, power and overall body explosiveness. Medicine ball training has been used for decades by strength and conditioning professionals because of their low load and because they can be used almost anywhere including on the sports field or in a rehabilitation setting.  However, traditional strength and conditioning programs – those programs which include lifting large amounts of weight to make athletes bigger and stronger – have largely eschewed medicine ball training because of one main factor; the inability to sufficiently overload the athlete, the cornerstone of any strength and conditioning program.

However, as research continues and the strength and conditioning field has gathered more knowledge, a new age of strength and conditioning is upon us. While loading the athlete is still important, today is the day of functional training. Often an overused phrase, functional training can be defined as training the body in the movement pattern and velocity with which it is used in the sport the athlete plays. More simply, to improve the athlete you must train them to perform the skills that their sport requires and most sports do not require lifting a great magnitude of weight. Medicine ball training fulfills this need; medicine balls can be used in a variety of ways to approximate the body movements that athletes use in actual sport activities. Medicine ball tosses with a twist can be used to simulate baseball and golf swings, chest passes can be used to replicate basketball chest passes and overhead tosses can be used to mimic soccer throw-ins.

Additionally, medicine ball exercises can be performed at a velocity at or near that of the actual activity with which they are simulating. This is in keeping with the strength and conditioning tenet of specificity which states that to improve a fitness variable you must train that fitness variable.

In conclusion, while traditional weight training still has a place in strength and conditioning programs, medicine ball training provides a lot of benefits and should play an important role in a functional strength and conditioning program. If you would like more information on how to incorporate medicine balls into your training program, contact a FAST facility near you at www.fast-training.com.

*Black and white athlete pictures from ptonthenet

According to the American Journal of Sports Medicine, girls soccer and basketball players undergo the greatest number of knee surgeries every year. Why are ACL injuries so prevalent in young, female athletes and is there anything you can do to lesson the risk of injury?

Our last post we gave you a brief synopsis of why females should train a bit differently in order to avoid ACL injuries. Outside of blunt force trauma, the most ‘at risk’ sports activities tend to be those involving jumping, pivoting and quick changes in direction such as soccer, basketball, football and volleyball.  As mentioned, biomechanical distinctions like a wider pelvis in relation to the femur creating an increased angle in the knee can’t be helped and make it harder for landing stability to keep the knees from “caving- in” during squatting or landing.  Some studies have also suggested other contributing causes such a woman’s increased joint laxity, hormonal differences and smaller femoral notch and ACL.

However, other factors in ACL injuries are:  quadriceps dominance, poor mechanics in running, landing and “cutting” (changing direction) as well as improper muscle firing patterns. These are things that can be corrected. A focused strength, balance and flexibility program, where proper motor skills are learned, will help reduce the risk of injury.

If you are a young athlete, or if you are the parent of a young female athlete, it is critical to seek out a qualified athletic trainer (ATC) or strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) to perform an ACL screen and have them implement an individualized program for you (or your child).  This is a necessary step in order to avoid possible injury which translates into time and money spent with the doctor, surgeon and in physical therapy.

The screen will generally consist of: posture and pelvic tilt assessment, static and dynamic balance, 2 feet and single leg squat, landing technique, flexibility and evaluating running and cutting techniques.

For the sake of simplicity in this forum, a good training program will consist of:

  1. A dynamic warm-up which should start with general light jogging, shuffles and then move into more sport specific movements.
  2. Balance training: 1 leg standing balance and progressing to opposite arm/leg reaches, reaches with direction and different planes of motion (to the front, side, diagonal)
  3. Plyometrics with a focus on solid landing patterns and not progressing in speed, distance and direction until basic patterns are mastered first.
  4. Strength training (especially in the hamstrings and gluteus medius)
  5. Athletic movement drills that focus on proper deceleration, keeping the body low with the knees bent (athlete position).
  6. Flexibility (quadriceps, inner thigh, calves)

If you want more details, please find a FAST facility near you. Our trainers are happy to discuss assessments and training programs that will help prevent injury and make you, or your child, a stronger athlete.

With recent shows like “The Biggest Loser,” programs like P90X and in Arizona year-round baseball for kids, Americans are inundated with the message that more is better when it comes to sports and fitness.

We are told that the harder, longer and more often we work out the better we are going to be, feel and look. However, like everything in life moderation should be the focus.   As stress goes up in one area of a person’s life i.e. work or school, then less energy must be expended in another area, if not we run the risk of doing serious damage to our physical and mental well-being.

Working out and playing sports, while being a great way to improve athleticism and physicality, can also be an intense stressor to the body.  Therefore, we must understand that it is not always about how much and how many times you workout or practice, but how much and how many workouts or practices you can recover from.  Because if you workout too much you can actually do more harm than good.

Therefore, let me offer this suggestion the next time you feel the need to perform that intense body destroying workout or complete that gut busting practice and think to yourself if your mind and body might not be better served by some intense body replenishing recovery.