Youth sports are an important part of our culture and offer many benefits to participants. We understand that exercise and physical activity in children is a high priority, can lead to long term good health and that many life skills can be learned through sport.
Despite all the positives, too often these days we hear of young children and adolescents suffering from injury or pain that prevents them from being active and enjoying their sport.
The young athlete’s body is unique and in many ways their physical needs may require special attention. Often we may be able to prevent or minimise the impact of injury by being more sensitive to the differences in the musculoskeletal system during their growing years.
Current trends in sport are leading to an increased intensity of training during adolescence and younger. Selection into elite teams and early specialisation are becoming common, even as early as 8-9 years old.
This pathway into sports can have multiple ill effects on children and adolescents that are not prepared (physically, socially and emotionally) for such a program.
Of particular concern are the following:
Inhibition of normal motor development – structured training in one skill or sporting code at an early age may limit the development of required motor skills.
Risk of injury and interference with growth – an adolescent’s body is not designed to tolerate the same level of training as the mature skeletal system. Overuse and repetitive loading can cause both short and long term problems and prevent participation.
Emotional and physical burn out
Physiotherapy during the growth years can assist in managing these issues appropriately. Review of motor patterns that could lead to injury, advice on training intensity and acute injury management by a professional that understands the changing musculoskeletal system is imperative. Additionally, communication between parents, coaches, players and the physiotherapist is key to the overall well being of the adolescent athlete.
At Active Bodies Physiotherapy our aim is to optimise the young athlete’s physical development and functional performance while minimising their risk of injury.
Injuries will happen….we can’t always prevent the broken arm that results from a spectacular leap from the monkey bars or learning a new trick at the skate park, but we can help our children stay in sports by avoiding overuse issues, facilitating normal motor development and respecting the fact that kids need to have fun!