by Dr. Douglas R. Portmann DC
Youth athletics have exploded over the years with the advent of select, AAU and Junior Olympic level play. When I was a kid, I played three sports a year and had the summer to strength train for the next year. Currently, if a child wants to excel at a sport we see them participating in the same sport almost all-year round with little to no break.
In my own household, I have two very active daughters who play multiple sports at school and advanced levels. As parents, we try to find the balance between having our athletes compete at the highest level they are capable of, and also preventing them from getting injured. When a child is injured, it becomes very frustrating for the athletes, parents, coaches, and others involved, not being able to be on the court, field, pool etc. It is at that point when parents tend to do anything possible to get the athlete rehabilitated and back in their activity.
As a Chiropractor, I think the piece we are missing is enforcing more preventative preparation. We will spend as much time and money as we can afford to get the young athlete back to top form, but when it comes to prevention, we tend to think, “If it isn’t broken then don’t fix it”. When it comes to high-level youth sports injuries, it is not a matter of “if” but “when,” most of the time.
In my practice, I am seeing more and more overuse injuries. Adding these practices listed below can prevent such injuries:
Flexibility: The majority of young athletes take very little time to warm up or stretch on their own or as a team. When they arrive in my office and I test them for range of motion, they are so limited that they were predestined to these types of injuries. Yoga is a great way to start flexibility and have fun in the process. Getting a team or a group together in a yoga class would be a great bonding experience for athletes, while improving their flexibility.
Strength: As a child enters adolescence, it is a good time to start some strength and conditioning exercises. For the pre-pubescent athlete, body weight exercises such as push-ups, air squats, and calestitics are a great way to increase strength without putting stress on the maturing growth plates. As the child matures through puberty, weight training can begin by starting lightly with bands and dumbbells, then gradually working their way up, as they are able to handle more weight. As the athletes progress into their later teens, functional exercises are a really important way to tie in multi-joint movements for the given sport. It is extremely important that a professional supervises the young athletes while going through the different stages of training.
Chiropractic care: The wear and tear on joints can be a major cause of acute injuries in youth athletes. Additionally, joint wear and tear seems to show up in my office in the aging population that were heavily involved athletics in their youth, at a higher rate than some other populations. Sports, much like car accidents, can cause an imbalance of the alignment of our joints. This, in turn, can cause the early degenerative changes in them. Getting Chiropractic care as a preventative measure can help protect athletes by preventing the body from putting the joints and ligaments into an improper position. This will also take the strain off the tendons and muscles, preventing them from working harder and keeping the joints protected.
Our office now offers Yoga and Pilates to go along with our preventative holistic approach to keeping our athletes at their fullest potential. You can find the class times at www.wardscornerchiro.com and look on the “About us” page. Please call our office at (513)-677-6787 if you would like your athlete checked for spinal and extremity joint misalignments.
Dr. Douglas R. Portmann DC is a certified Chiropractic Sports Physician, and Certified Strength and Conditioning specialist