Young athletes long to be just like their favorite sports stars just as we all did when we were there age. What child doesn’t dream to hit like Bryce Harper, dunk like Lebron or drill the ball into the back of the goal like Christine Sinclair? It wasn’t until recently though that children and adolescents have begun to train like their heroes. This poses a problem as children involved with sports are developing injuries at a much higher rate than in the past.
A lot of these injuries are due to repetitive stress and overuse, sometimes called repetitive strain injuries (RSIs). This has a lot to do with kids playing the same sport all year round. In the past, it was the norm for a child to play one sport in summer, soccer for instance, and a different one, like basketball, in the winter. In today’s age, it is quite common for a child to specialize and train year-round in one sport in the hopes of gaining a competitive edge.
Single sport athletes are at risk of overuse injuries because their muscle tissue becomes damaged when they repeat the same motion over and over again. The most common injuries are sprains and strains, but other injuries include more serious problems such as stress fractures, dislocations or tendon ruptures. A child is especially at risk of these injuries because their muscles aren’t as developed as an adult’s are.
What can you do to help your child?
Allow for adequate recovery and sleep time
Sleeping, eat the right foods, optimize nutritional supplements (Protein recovery powders and whole food vitamins) and drinking plenty of water are important for everyone, but especially to your young athlete, whose body is still developing. While the basic recommendation is for teenagers to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night, getting more sleep say, 10 hours per night on a regular basis can help those pursuing sports goals to reach their peak athletic performance. For kids ages 6 to 13, the recommended amount of sleep is between 9 and 11 hours, meaning your budding soccer star should really be aiming for 10 to 12 hours. (And yes, that can mean 7:30 PM bedtimes some nights!). All these are essential with allowing for enough recovery time. This means, for example, when soccer season ends, wait a month or so to enroll them in “Club” soccer. Your child, led by their coach or trainer, should also be involved in some sort of dynamic stretching before and after any activity as well to help minimize injury.
Encourage them to try a different sport in the offseason
It is important for kids to try different sports, especially at a young age.
While some believe the only way to become Elite at a sport is to play it all year round, recent studies have actually proven the opposite. A 2013 American Medical Society for Sports Medicine survey found that 88 per cent of college athletes surveyed participated in more than one sport as a child. Kids who play many different sports usually develop better coordination, balance and motor skills than their single-sport counterparts.
What can I do if I suspect my child already has an overuse injury?
Taking your child to a chiropractor is a good place to start. Your chiropractor is trained to treat RSIs in all age groups and can provide advice on achieving a balanced healthy lifestyle. Many imbalances or misalignments in the spine and extremities occur with constant repetitive movements, muscle compensations and the physical contact of sports. These misalignments reduce proper joint, spinal motions and decreased nerve function which lead to injures. Dr. Sean Adkins, Exercise Physiologist, estimates that 90% of world class athletes get regular chiropractic adjustments not only to prevent injures but optimize their performance on the field and in the water.
Depending on the injury, your chiropractor may suggest a series of spinal alignments, electric muscle stimulation or some form of massage therapy such as Myofascial Release Therapy.
Doctor of Chiropractic can do more than correct problems for your child as well. They can also help improve their performance on and off the field by helping their bodies to function at their optimum level.