HOW TO HELP PREVENT INJURIES IN YOUTH ATHLETES: A SPORTS CHIROPRACTOR’S PERSPECTIVE
We’re excited to have Sport’s Chiropractor Lachlan Hooper guest posting on the #YADacademy blog today, utilising his extensive knowledge base to chat with you guys about the implementation of strategies that will prevent injuries in youth athletes. Thanks, Lachlan! We’ll have to get you back again to share more of your expertise with us all soon!
It’s important to address pain early
When pain occurs, don’t wait for it to progress into something that stops you doing what you love. The first thing you should do is see if you can modify your training or workouts in order to eliminate or minimise the discomfort, or, consider increasing the frequency of your rest days. Your Strength and Conditioning Coach or Sports Chiropractor may know some appropriate exercise alternatives. This will allow you to achieve the same exercise stimulus, while de-loading the injured area.
It’s important to acknowledge that the pain is there, and you may need to do something about it. If the pain persists, despite exercise modification and adequate rest days, then you should consider seeing a health professional for further management and guidance.
One of the simplest ways to minimise the change of pain in your given sport is to make sure you have a great warm-up and cool-down procedure that you do every time you train, which leads us on to our next point.
The warm-up and the cool-down
A great warm-up consists of dynamic movements that resemble the actions and motions you are about to complete in your workout, training session or game. By utilising warm-up movements that resemble these actions and motions, you are encouraging mobilisation of the tissues we need to move well, and you’re also priming the nervous system for this movement pattern to occur.
Cool-downs are unfortunately uncommon amongst the general youth athlete population. Don’t just rush out of the gym once you have finished training, as this time is fantastic to focus on your mobility work. Try spending 10-15 minutes releasing and stretching restrictive areas of the body, including muscles and joints. Speaking of mobility work…
You need to incorporate regular mobility work
As highlighted above, a consistent mobility regime can work wonders for allowing normal healthy joint and muscle function to occur. Having normal function and movement capability will mean less compensation that gets created by your body in order to complete a motion. When there is less compensation, and more balance and coordination in your movement, this means that there is less likelihood of an injury to occur.
Your best mobility tools are static stretching, dynamic stretching, foam rolling, trigger balls and joint mobilisations.
Once a region and its associated structures can move freely, it’s time to make it stable. This leads us onto…
You need to incorporate regular stability work
Stability work is crucial to master if we are to add weight to any movement pattern. If we do not have a base level of stability to a region, the potential for injury when we load the region will surely increase. Stability work encompasses exercises to encourage correct movement pattering and sequencing.
These are often done using a light resistance from a resistance band, dumbbell, kettle bell, Swiss ball, or even your own body weight. Using these lighter weights allows us to train movements under light load to make sure we groove correct movement patterns into our nervous system, otherwise known as motor control.
Your Strength and Conditioning Coach or health care professional should be able to give you some great exercise progressions that match your stability needs for your sport.
Load is the overall force/stress that is applied to a tissue through activity. Load is usually calculated on a session by session basis and tallied weekly. For example, an injured tennis player with a sore shoulder may want to manage the load that goes through the injured tissue. So, the coach may calculate first how difficult the session was (RPE – rate of perceived exertion, say 7) and times it by the length of the session in minutes (say, 100 minutes), which equals a score of 700 for our tennis athlete.
The coach or astute athlete then may apply a load limit for the week of, say 2000. To be able to control the amount of stress/load that goes through the tissue, and to allow for recovery.
Make sure you’re getting enough sleep
Finally, we want to be looking at the youth athletes sleep, which is an often-overlooked element of the youth athlete’s recovery and injury prevention strategy. A 2014 study in the Journal of Paediatric Orthopaedics notes that athletes who slept on average < 8 hours a night, were 1.7 times more likely to have had an injury compared with athletes who slept > 8 hours. So, make sure your youth athlete is getting at least 8 hours sleep a night to reduce that injury risk even further!
“Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes.”
— J Pediatr Orthop, 2014 March, 34 (2), 129-33
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr Lachlan Hooper is an internationally certified Sports Chiropractor with the International Federation of Sports Chiropractic, and is a Strength and Conditioning Coach with the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association. He currently works full-time in a private practice at Laguna Bay Chiropractic in Noosa Heads, Queensland, Australia. Follow Lachlan on Instagram, and stay up to date with all things Laguna Bay Chiropractic by following the team on Facebook.