Archive for “Sports Injuries” Tag

When The Body Says “Yes, But The Mind Says “No”

By Tom Hurley

It is estimated that between 15 and 20 million sports injuries occur in the United States alone. These injuries can range from nagging constant pain due to overuse, to season ending injuries such as ligament damage in the ankle, knee or shoulder; and the age of the athlete’s affected can range from very young, (7 years) to not so young, (70 years and beyond). The statistics are staggering, but not necessarily unpredictable. The bottom line is, in terms of classifying athletes, it has been said that there are two types: those who have been injured, and those who have not been injured yet.

As opportunity for youth participation in sport grows, the number of injuries related to participation naturally rises. Not only does this create a larger need for the biological, (physical) problems associated with the injury to be addressed through possible surgery, rehabilitation and conditioning, it also creates a necessity for young athletes, parents and coaches to understand the mental and emotional, (psychological) factors that need to be addressed for a full recovery.

“Get back on the horse”
So you want to get your son/daughter/team member/athlete back in the game. The Doctor has given them “medical clearance” and all physical indications are that he/she should be able to participate at their pre-injury level. You’ve tried everything to get them there, but nothing seems to be working. You wonder “what will it take to get them back on the horse”? This is a huge subject matter, one that can not be fully addressed in a simple article. There are however, some specific strategies that can be noted for further exploration.

sports injuries

Scenario 1:
The young athlete begins practicing with the team and aside from a let down in physical “game-time” conditioning, seems to be performing at or near pre-injury level. This is the scenario that we would all like to experience. In this case the child simply needs to know that there is an open, non-judgmental line of communication available to them should they begin to experience pain or inhibition.

Scenario 2:
The young athlete refuses to return, or when they do begin practicing, doesn’t seem to have the same intensity or focus that they once had. They are noticeably more “timid” in their approach to the sport. This is an extremely common scenario whereby we see the physical return to the sport but factors are in play that are creating inhibition. It can not be understated that open non-judgmental communication between the athletes, parents, and coaches is vital in all of these situations, and should be the standard for all youth athletics. There are usually three different factors involved in the “timid play” scenario.

“It still hurts”
The first factor could quite simply be that the child still experiences pain as they are trying to play. Though it may sound simplistic, we often forget to ask the proper question. If the young athlete feels empowered as a member of their own re-habilitation team, they will be more likely to let you know that “it still hurts”. The fix here is simple; go back to the doctor or get a second opinion.

“I’m all done”
This factor is a little more difficult to rule out. In our efforts to promote our children through sport we sometimes forget that they are not little adults. Their likes and dislikes are fickle at best as they move through development and maturation. Today’s favorite activity may be tomorrow’s memory. Your child/athlete may be trying to let you know that they have simply lost interest in this sport and don’t know how to tell you for fear that they will let you down.

The temperament, coping skills, daily stresses, trait anxiety and emotional maturity of each young athlete is unique and under construction. The injury and pain associated with it may have been enough to disengage that child’s desire to continue with this particular sport.

Of course we all want athletes to “get back up on the horse” because it “builds character”. The suggestion here is to begin having conversations with the athlete about their continued participation. It has been my experience that once a child knows that they are able to have good honest “talks” about how they feel; they are more likely to make decisions based on how they actually feel as opposed to how they think they should feel. Often times the child will understand where the apprehension to perform is coming from, and will be willing to try to work through it and continue with the activity. Of course, the fact remains that they simply may be “all done”.

“I’m Scared”
Fear is a primary emotion. That said, when a young athlete focuses on the fear of re-injury it is nearly impossible for them to focus on the prospects of returning to pre-injury play. The fear of re-injury not only inhibits intensity of play, but places the athlete at a higher risk of more injury due to compensatory movement patterns as they avoid using the injured or affected body part. This is the factor most commonly associated with an athlete’s return to full participation, and can be the most frustrating for the athlete to try to overcome.

There are four vital elements that should be considered when dealing with the psychological aspects of all of these injury scenarios. For this scenario, since it is often times the most difficult to deal with, it’s important to be familiar with all four, though within the confines of this article, and because we are focusing primarily on the child athlete, concentration will be on the first two of these.
1) First and foremost it is vital to validate the child’s fear as a rational, normal and completely expected outcome of having been injured.
2) Set specific, progressive, reasonable goals for the athlete’s full return to play.
3) Utilize imagery and relaxation techniques.
4) Incorporate positive self-talk.

Encouraging a young athlete to discuss feelings of apprehension or of being “afraid” to play again is extremely important for their emotional development, not only as an athlete but as a person in general. The realization that they are experiencing a normal consequence of having felt pain, and that all athletes at some point experience the same thing, allows them the freedom to move toward dealing with this emotion. Remember, we are talking about children who are still in the process of developing psycho-socially. This is an important first step toward eventually returning to activity; especially when it is a young athlete’s first injury.

Setting goals may sound easy, but requires that you know whether your child is ego oriented or task oriented. In its simplest terms, an ego oriented athlete bases their self-worth on how well they perform compared to others, while a task oriented athlete is driven by an internal desire of skill mastery, effort and self-improvement.

An example of a simple ego-oriented goal may sound like this: “Jane (a teammate) made four lay-ups in a row from the right side, now it’s you turn to see how that knee holds up.” Though the focus of the goal ends with a statement regarding this athlete’s knee (the site of the prior injury), this ego oriented athlete will focus on trying to do as well as Jane; allowing her to perform on the rehabbed knee while focusing on performance.

An example of a task-oriented goal may sound like this: “Today you will perform 3 sets of lay-ups from the right side. Each set will be made up of 10 reps. Try to make as many in a row as possible.” Here the focus is on the lay-up, which will require her to decelerate then drive through her previously injured knee. No concrete number is given as a goal for completed lay-ups per set, as this athlete will use the first set as a benchmark and attempt to improve on each subsequent set. Remember, a task oriented individual is driven by self effort and improvement.

Notice, in each of these examples we kept it as simple as possible by not creating a time limit or actual person to person competition. The point here is whether ego or task-oriented, the goals remain attainable, reasonable and progressive. We also need to remember to debrief or discuss with the athlete how they felt during these performances. Allow them the opportunity to share what it felt like. When a goal is achieved, celebrate with them by recognizing the achievement, and then increase the difficulty of the goal. The young athlete’s self-confidence should continue to improve. As adults we need to be aware that all healing takes time and sometimes the emotional and mental healing requires more time than the physical healing. These are, above all, developing human beings.

Earlier I mentioned imagery, relaxation, and positive self talk as vital elements to incorporate in the injury recovery process. Though I use them on a regular basis with athletes that I work with, it is not something that was learned overnight or in a brief article such as this. Concentrating on good open communication and development of proper goal setting skills can go a long way in helping young athletes through emotional challenges.

Reference:
Murphy, S. (2005). The Sport Psychology Handbook. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Tom Hurley, M.Ed., YFS3, YNS, SAS, HSSCS applies over 30 years of combined knowledge as a Behavioral Therapist, Health and Physical Education Teacher, and Mental Skills Coach in his current business as a Performance Specialist. He currently programs with over 200 athletes and is dedicated to providing each one with the opportunity to develop spirit, mind and body.

Youth Athletes and Sports Injuries

 

Youth Athletes and Sports Injuries

Youth Athletes
 

By Clyde Mealy
 

The demands on today’s youth athletes are higher than ever. More youths are practicing longer and more frequently with fewer days in between to recover.
 

What is the cost of competition? According to Current Sports Medicine in 2008, reports that an estimated 45 million children and adolescents participated in organized sports in the United States alone. The question is how many are being properly trained and supervised. Nowadays, there is no true off-season to rejuvenate and have some fun or to play other sports just because… School athletics are followed by open or recreation league play that continues sometimes into the next season.
 

The bigger picture here is setting these youth athletes up for severe overuse injuries.

 

The most common for overuse is the shoulder joint for baseball players. The shoulder is the most moveable and most easily injured joint on the human body. Moreover, the elbow is another joint involved in overuse or repetitive movements. Medial Apophysitis (Little Leaguer’s Elbow), Tennis Elbow, Golfer’s Elbow are becoming more common in youth athletes. These conditions are especially serious in youth athletes because they are smaller, weaker and still growing. A family physician or sports specialist with a nonsurgical treatment as the goal if diagnosed early should examine any lingering symptoms.
 

Research conducted in 2000 revealed females had a 25% greater chance of an ankle injury over males. According to NASM, the sports commonly associated with ankle sprains are basketball, soccer and volleyball. It has been estimated that 80,000 – 150,000 ACL injuries occur each year. The Prime age group is 15-24 but more injuries are reported in youth athletes ages 10-14. Girls have five times the risk for an ACL injury than boys. Dr. Labella contributes this risk to poor neuromuscular control of knee motion during athletic tasks like landing from a jump, cutting or stopping. The importance here is the position of the knee (valgus) which places additional stress on the foot/ankle complex, the meniscus and the hip/low-back. If left unchecked, this can lead to an ankle sprain that can contribute to reduced participation of the gluteal muscles. Meniscus grinding can occur in the knee along with ligament damage due to weakness. If surgical repair is needed, this can lead to a life-changing event of how sports is viewed and played in the future. Osteoarthritis is a possibility along with other surgeries in the future.
 

According to Dr. Faigenbaum, to reduce the risk of sports-specific injuries in youth athletes like ankle and knee dysfunctions we should start with education and instruction. This should include a mastery of basic movements, exercise variation, proper progressive exercises and structured recovery. Veigel suggests rule changes in sports like baseball (pitch-counts) and hockey (checking) along with improved safety equipment and conditioning programs.
 

Overall, many youth athletes sports-related injuries can be avoided by properly preparing them for activity. Playing a contact sport like football or hockey will incur some minor sprains and strains as long as the proper equipment is worn and the game is played accordingly. Teaching today’s youth the fundamentals of their chosen sport can go a long way in how youth play the game they enjoy. It is our responsibility as fitness professionals to reinforce good habits and sportsmanship on and off the playing field.
 

As a trainer and volunteer coach, I prepare all my youth athletes with the proper warm-up of dynamic stretching, light cardio, core and balance training, concentric and eccentric training using resistance/weights, plyometrics, and bodyweight exercises/drills, and a cool-down with static stretching or yoga.
 

Injury prevention is my top priority. Especially for my female Youth Athletes, I work on foot/ankle and knee mechanics to activate the proper muscle groups (gluteals) to reduce injuries. Improved sports performance is the by-product of a properly trained and supervised youth athlete. In addition, structured recovery includes nutrition, hydration and supplements when appropriate and recommended by a healthcare professional like a family physician and or Registered Dietician. As the other experts suggested, education and instruction is the key to reduce injuries in today’s active youth.
 

Resources:
 

Labella, C., & Carl, R. (2010). Preventing knee ligament injuries in young athletes. Pediatric Annals, 39(11), 714-720. doi:10.3928/00904481-20101013-10
 

Myer, G. D., Faigenbaum, A. D., Ford, K. R., Best, T. M., Bergeron, M. F., & Hewett, T. E. (2011). When to Initiate Integrative Neuromuscular Training to Reduce Sports-Related Injuries and Enhance Health in Youth?. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 10(3), 157-166.
 

Veigel, J. D., & Pleacher, M. D. (2008). Injury Prevention in Youth Sports. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 7(6), 348-352.
 

NASM Essentials of Performance Enhancement, 2007
 

 

Training for Power: The Top 5 Exercises for Athletes to Dominate the Game

 

Training for Power with Young Athletes

 

Young Athletes hang position

 

By Wil Fleming

 

My young athletes are known for explosive power, from middle school volleyball players to football players preparing for the combine all of them out class the competition when it comes to quick bursts of power.  Recently I put together a presentation outlining my favorite exercises to do just that.  I have shared a brief outline of the topics covered in that seminar in the list below.

 

1. Hang Clean and Snatch-

 

You will notice that I did not say the Power Clean or Power Snatch.  Power cleans are the staple of most training programs, but the key is by doing this movement from the hang position i.e. with the bar just above your knees.  This position is much closer to ones athletes actually use in athetics and athletes have a much greater potential for technically sound lifts.

The snatch must be included because it is such a powerful movement as well and can lend diversity to the program.

 

2. CHAOS agility drills

Much of the need for power in football comes in the reaction to a movement of the ball or of the defensive player, because of this football players must also have the mental awareness to make explosive movements as a reaction. Credit Coach Robert Dos Remedios for this one, but my favorite training tool for this are CHAOS agility drills (it stands for Conscious to unconscious Have unpredictability Active to Reactive Open drills Slow to Fast). The idea behind it is to have athletes mirror one another in specific patterns first and then to open ended drills with many different movement patterns, more closely replicating the actions of actual game play.

 

3. Kettlebell Swings

This is a foundation movement for any athlete looking to develop more power. The action in the kettlebell swing is founded on the idea of a hip hinge, this is important because most athletes need to gain better control of the ability to hinge at the hips.  Most athletes are very much Quad dominant and are losing out on the potential of their backside. The Kettlebell Swing does a great job of teaching these motions effectively.

 

4. MB Throws

Using medicine balls in throwing motions (chest pass, Side throws, Throws for distance) is a great way to develop power in the upperbody for young athletes while incorporating the important parts of hang cleans, hang snatches, and Kettlebell swings (hip hinging).  Delivering a Medicine ball with force is a great way to engage the core in explosive activities as well, generating force with the lower body must require active core control to deliver the ball with the arms, This transfer of power is important to all sports.

 

5. Plyometrics

Athletes need to be adept at accelerating and decelerating their own body at maximum speeds. Plyometrics are the first way that athletes can learn to do so.  Maximal jumps with a stuck landing will help athletes develop resistance to injury and will simulate many movements in sport.

 

 

There is a lot more than just power that goes into becoming athlete. It takes general strength, resistance to injury, proper conditioning and a well prepared mind.

 

Focusing on power will take athletes a long way towards getting to where they want to be.

 

 

 

Sport Specific Youth Training: Part 1

Insert/edit linkYouth Training

For Sports

As a given sport evolves and the participants within that sport begin to break records and perform what was once considered impossible, you can be sure that advancements in training and conditioning regimes have occurred within that sport. Very few athletes ever become great sport technicians without the inclusion of a comprehensive athletic development and conditioning program as part of their training package. Over the past decade, the type of training and conditioning performed by young, developing and elite athletes has gone from basic fitness to more functionally- based and developmental activities. Figure skating and all of the disciplines under that umbrella are such examples.

 

Youth Training

 

For example, many training coaches prescribe that their skaters practice landing jumps and performing balance based skills (such as spirals) off the ice. On the other side of the spectrum, there are the ‘athletic developers’ who tend not to concern themselves with producing specified strength gains but instead work more directly at improving the complete athletic profile of the skater. The general conception among these professionals is that the greater degree of athleticism the skater has, the more likely he or she will be able to carry out athletic skills. While traditionalists often incorporate basic and conventional exercises into their training programs, the athletic developers come from a more movement based perspective. This style of conditioning is often referred to as ‘functional’ training, which is in fact a misnomer. Let’s examine that.

 

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