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Archive for “Youth Sports Injuries” Category

Early Sport Specialization: Getting Them To Listen – Brett Klika

Early sport specialization has been a hot topic for years, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.  As strength and conditioning coaches, it’s baffling when we see parents and coaches embracing the notion of early sport specialization despite the mountains of data, expert opinion, and well- reviewed evidence highlighting the downfalls.

Our heart breaks when youngsters in these situations get injured or depart from sports and physical activity altogether. The last thing we want to have to say is “We told you so.”

But, well…. “We told you so.”

Despite us “telling” parents, coaches, and our local communities about the importance of long term skill development and a well- rounded approach to athleticism, it feels like many don’t listen until it’s too late. Overcoming this communication breakdown is essential for youth strength and conditioning coaches if we are going to truly create a positive impact on the kids in our community.

How do we get the world of youth athletics to not only hear our message, but embrace it?

I discovered this communication disconnect early in my career directing the youth athletic program at Todd Durkin’s Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego. I would send kids home with printed manifestos on the importance of long term athletic development. I would share the latest research and training paradigms with coaches and parents during team meetings and “parent night” promotions.

Despite some success, I quickly realized that the volume of information provided was not the limiting factor in creating change. It wasn’t until I changed the delivery method that I was able to actually impact more parents, coaches, and teams.

The overwhelm of daily life leaves adults with a limited capacity for absorbing new information. With the opinions, recommendations, and even outright facts we hear every day, we have to apply a filter for what we trust, understand, and believe to be relevant. It’s essential we keep these three components in mind when talking with parents, coaches, and other influencers in the community.

Get Them to Trust Your Message
Obviously, parents wouldn’t let their children work with us if they didn’t trust us. However, trust is hierarchical. When it comes to information, a parent may trust what we say more than someone on the street, but the family doctor, a former or current pro athlete, or someone they hold in “celebrity” regard is going to invoke their greatest level of attention.

 

If this isn’t you yet, it’s important to find out where the parents and coaches you work with get the information they trust. Can you develop a relationship with these people? Letting local pediatricians and orthopedic surgeons know about your program can create both a network of trust and referral.

You may need to go broader and find/share interviews or articles with celebrity athletes or professionals associated with them that back up your approach. I’m not saying it’s fair, but a parent will pay more attention to a short interview from the Rock saying, “The People’s Elbow thinks kids should be kids” than a 5-page research-cited thesis from you on the same topic.

Developing relationships with and sharing information from people high on a public information trust hierarchy increases the likelihood this information will be absorbed. It also slowly increases your social validation as an expert and one day you won’t need the middle man!

It’s also important to continually seek opportunities to write, speak, and educate. The more your name and face is in public, the more people recognize you as an expert and take heed in what you say.

Get Them to Understand Your Message
Founder of Precision Nutrition, John Berardi once wrote “With everything you send to a parent or coach, envision them reading or watching it while waiting at a red light with a minivan full of screaming kids, radio blaring, and coffee in hand. In other words, keep it short and simple.”

Long term athletic development, or LTAD, may be the hottest water cooler talk of our industry niche. However, this term means nothing to parents. They acknowledge and react largely to what is in front of them.

For information to be absorbed and understood, it needs to be delivered concisely and in the simplest terms. If you use video, shoot for 60 seconds or less with clear visual-based information. Boil down a complex concept into terms a grade-schooler could understand. Remember, the goal is not to impress colleagues. It’s to create a ground level understanding for people with no background in our field. Just imagine if you were learning how the stock market works in 60 seconds or less. How would you want that information presented?

For written information, use a single-sided page with large-font bullet points. Infographics are more shareable across all platforms and are by far the most effective. As far as the info, consider hard statistics, clear research findings, and bold data.

Make Your Message Relevant
In order for coaches, parents, and even ourselves to value information, relevance is key. Our information should inherently answer the question “Why do I need to know this?” While general concepts provide valuable insight, adults are surrounded by general concepts. In order to make it through the filter, information must be presented in a near “first-name” basis.

For example, if sharing general statistics on injury and early sport specialization, parents may or may not raise an eyebrow. They know the information is pooled through various ages and sports across the country. However, sharing sport-specific or age/sex related statistics particularly after someone on the team has become injured has a much greater impact.

I have actually contacted local leagues and gotten injury numbers for the reported concussions, ACL injuries, and shoulder/elbow pathology and compared them to national standards. These were some of the most impactful pieces of information I ever shared.

If there is a simple movement, mobility, or other evaluation found in the literature linked to injury prevention or performance, share it with parents. I’ve done these during live “parent nights” for teams knowing 90% of the room will fail. It puts the notion of “Why is this important to me” right in front of everyone’s face.

Most importantly, listen to parent’s questions and answer them. Write down the 10 most common and answer them through the “trust” and “understand” filters. When parents solicit questions, then trust and understand the answers, it’s a win.

As you can see, educating the public takes much more than posting rants about early sport specialization on social media and bashing the local coaches who buy into it. As youth strength and conditioning coaches on the right side of the cause, we have to be lighthouses of trustworthy, understandable, and relevant information. This station is arrived at through constant learning, educating, and most importantly, listening.

Strive to improve how you share your message and soon your entire community will join your mission to inspire the kids of today to become the happy, healthy, active adults of tomorrow!

Brett Klika is a youth performance expert and regular contributor to the IYCA.  He is the creator of the SPIDERfit Kids youth training program and has run successful youth fitness programs all over the country.  Brett is an international speaker whose passion for youth fitness has helped thousands of people learn how to create exceptional training experiences for young athletes.

 

The old “windows of opportunity” Long Term Athlete Development model is a thing of the past.  Learn the truth about LTAD and how to approach athletes at every level in the IYCA’s LTAD Roadmap.  This is the most comprehensive approach to athlete development available.  Click on the image below to learn more.

ACL Injury Prevention in Women’s Basketball Players: Accelerated Deceleration Drills

ACL Injury Prevention is always an important topic with female athletes.  There are several reasons why a female basketball accelerated decelerationplayer has a 50% more likelihood of suffering a non-contact Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury than their male counterpart. Many experts have looked into why and have rationalized several different theories that focus on possible biomechanical difference, hormonal changes, poor neuromuscular integrated strength or a possible decrease in ligament tensile strength.

Along with these theories there are also a few research facts that reflect:
1. A higher degree of thigh dominant versus hip dominant strength which can predispose female athletes to a higher neuromuscular risk of injury
2. A greater valgus knee angle with lateral movements which in turn places a greater strain on the medial compartment of the knee and the ACL.
3. Less active knee and hip flexion during ground contact events like jumping and cutting which in turn lessens the amount of deceleration control through the lower extremities and hips.

The fact is that 95% of all non-contact ACL injuries are a result of poor deceleration control of momentum and ground reaction sheer forces that occur as a result of change direction. This is why an ACL injury prevention program is so important.  Sheer is a simultaneous application of a vertical, rotational and horizontal force vector that has been show to be the exact force combination (mechanism) that results in the ACL being compromised.  Interestingly when evaluating strength and conditioning programs in women’s basketball specifically, the combination of a rotational and horizontal force vector training application is rarely seen. In most cases only body weight resistance is applied during these types of exercises.

This is where flat, continuously-looped, resistance bands can play a significant role in training and can assist in ACL injury prevention. Resistance bands are essentially independent of gravity and therefore can create a true horizontal-rotational force vector when attached around the hips. Using this attached set-up to perform multi-directional 2 step locomotion drills like shuffling, backpedals, crossovers and hopping, it provides the perfect training environment for female athletes to reactively strengthen the body, specifically the hips and core abdominal region, to increase control of deceleration sheer forces.

Over the past several years as strength coach of our local high school girls basketball team, I have implemented a resistance band training program for women’s basketball players that we refer to as “2 Step Accelerated Deceleration” Drills. These drills apply a pair of linked up Quantum Bands to create an “accelerated deceleration” training momentum that reflexively trains the body to handle increased momentum forces that requires a faster deceleration force response. Using short amplitude, multi-directional, 2-step movements allows athletes to gradually increase their band resistance force which increases the deceleration momentum force velocity. Like with any strength training program, as movement skill and strength improve, athletes developed a greater level of confidence in their deceleration foot work and strength.

The following videos demonstrate how to perform 2 Step Accelerated Deceleration Drills as it relates to a lateral, sagital and rotational change of direction. All of these drills require a pair of similar size 41 inch long continuously looped Quantum bands linked together using a link strap. This simple set-up provides athletes with 4 yards of total training distance which is more than enough to train two to three steps of movement.

Shuffle 2 Step Deceleration

Backpedal 2 Step Deceleration

Crossover 2 Step Deceleration

 

Typical Programming for Introduction
Initial programming involves using rep based sets that allow athletes to train at their own pace. I recommend performing 5 reps per set with a 30 second rest between sets. They will start with 2 sets performed with backpedals and in both direction when performing shuffles and crossovers. As conditioning and skill set improves, I recommend increasing to 3 sets. Once 3 sets are well established from a conditioning level I will switch to time based sets of 20 second work and 20 seconds rest to begin bringing in more of conditioning component.

Not only will these drills assist in ACL injury prevention, they will help improve the quickness and performance of the athletes.

To get Quantum Bands (and many other bands) for these drills go to ResistanceBandTraining.com.

 

ACL Injury Prevention Dave SchmitzAbout the Author:  Dave “The Band Man™” Schmitz, has been writing, teaching and training how to implement resistance band training for rehabilitation, fitness and performance since 1996. In 2008 Dave founded Resistance Band Training Systems, LLC and with that launched Resistancebandtraining.com, the only online website exclusively devoted to training with RBT Quantum Bands. As a teacher and coach, Dave has authored and produced 100’s of articles, digital training resources and DVDs as well as creating the only online Resistance Band Training Certification and virtual band training membership site “The Band Gym.” All of these unique resources have allowed Dave the platform to teach 1000’s of coaches, athletes, therapists, doctors, trainers, teachers and fitness enthusiasts how to get their body looking, feeling and moving better training with continuously looped resistance bands. Since December of 2008, Dave has hosted the RBT newsletter and blog that today includes special weekly events like, A Minute with The Band Man, RBT Weekly and the Friday RBT Workout. Along being a national and international speaker, Dave also consults regularly with over 100 high schools, universities and private performance training business. As a result of his efforts in 2011 and 2012 Dave was recognized as one of Top 100 most influential Fitness Professionals in America.
Dave also gives back on a local level as the owner of G’Town Boot Camps and G’Town Fast-n-Fit while also volunteering his time since 2010 as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coordinator for Germantown High School Athletics (Germantown, Wisconsin). Dave is a 1986 Graduate of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse where he earned his Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Physical Therapy with an emphasis in Orthopedics and Sports Medicine and Athletic Training.

5 Tips to a Healthy Football Season – And Any Sports Season

Football Season is Here

The season is upon us. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s football season. The time of year where you can lose more friends than in an election year. So with that said, 2016 may be an interesting year. Let’s call 2017 the year of reconciliations.

If you are an athlete, football season can be grueling and can wear you down. If you are a coach, it can do the same thing. If you are a parent…well, parents have it easy. All you have to do is print out this article, tape it to the fridge, and your young athlete will follow all 5 tips, right?

The goal of this quick article is to give the athletes 5 tips to a healthy football season and give coaches some things to harp on with your athletes. In a loving way, of course.

5 Tips to Having a Healthy Football Season

Tip #1: Nutrition

Eating “properly” for performance is a year long struggle for the young athlete and can get even more difficult during football season. One of the hardest goals to meet is getting the calories an athlete needs to perform. With lunch around noon and practice after school, kids can go 6-7 hours without eating in the afternoon.

Pro Tip: Bringing snacks to school is important to fill those huge gaps in the day. But don’t forget, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Don’t skip it.

Tip #2: Strength Train

If we work hard in the off-season, why lose all those “GAINS” during the season? Yea, I know, “I don’t have any time” or “we gotta spend that time watching film” is a common reason for skipping strength training. Time can be of the essence, but 2 days a week minimum is a must! Get into the weight room.

Pro Tip: The main goal in-season is to combat muscular imbalances that are caused by the season which CAN help prevent injuries. Oh yea, athletes CAN get stronger in-season! Don’t skip out on strength training during the season. Your off-season will thank you!

Tip #3: Sleep

You know what? I love video games too! I think it’s important to have fun with friends but don’t let it affect the season. Athletes need 8-9+ hours of sleep each night so the body can repair itself. Period.

Tip #4: Injuries

This is a big one for highly motivated athletes. Nobody likes to be hurt and miss games. But that slightly rolled ankle can quickly turn into a season ending injury if not treated correctly. There is a big difference between some bumps and bruises and an injury that can lead to something more serious.

Pro Tip: Maintain a good working relationship with ATC’s and make sure injuries are discussed.

Tip #5: Academics

Poor academics can lead to ZERO play time. Make school work a priority. Time management is one of the skills athletes will need to learn as a student athlete.

Pro Tip: Take advantage of free time. Use study hall for studying and homework (obviously), and use bus rides for the same thing. Being an athlete is work!

Have a Productive Football Season

Parents, I hope this is “fridge worthy”. Coaches, keep these tips in the front of your mind when it comes to your athletes. I hope that your football athletes will use these 5 tips to have a healthy and productive football season.

Josh Ortegon


About the Author: Josh Ortegon

Josh Ortegon - 5 Tips to a Healthy Football SeasonJoshua Ortegon is co-founder and the Director of Sports Performance Enhancement at Athlete’s Arena in Irmo, SC. Joshua earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science from Western Michigan University in 2000.

As an IYCA-certified High School Strength and Conditioning Specialist, speaker, and writer, Joshua has helped establish Athlete’s Arena as the premier high-performance center in South Carolina since 2005.

Joshua has worked with a wide range of athletes from youth to professionals specializing in the areas of injury prevention, return to play and performance enhancement.


Are Your Athletes Prepared to Perform this Season?

IYCA-LTAD-LM-Blog AD-V1 - 5 Tips to a Healthy Football Season
 

Thank Yourself

The Purpose of Youth Sports

I am a medical professional so there is a duty to talk about “problems” and “pain.” After enough years I would like to approach it with two different “P” words: purpose and progress.

thanks-1183283_640I have written a hundred plus articles on the topics of injury prevention, rehab, and sports performance but have not fully addressed something more profound…that youth sports are great.

Problems exist, and we talk about them a lot. Massive increases in over training injuries and dropping out of sports by 8th grade are at an all-time high. Also, the number of crazy parents and coaches doing embarrassing things seems to be growing daily.

But what is the purpose of youth sports? Some could say, to develop top notch athletes but more economist types would say to support a growing multi-billion-dollar industry.

I say it is about fun.

Youth Sports is Not a Job

Fun, determination, hard-work, success, failure, big highs, disastrous lows, and all the rest that goes into building strong character. Sports is only a good paying job for an infinitely small part of the population and at those levels, it still is a job.

Youth sports is not a job—it is an opportunity to participate in something a child loves.

The whole purpose is to give our children a chance to experience greatness for themselves, in whatever tiny amount, which in turn can carry on to so many other things. Opportunity for success and risk of failure is what sports is all about.

As we live in a crazy interconnected world, let’s take a moment and appreciate what you do. You show up day and night to provide children with the opportunity to live out their dreams, their fun and their chances at glory.

In these moments, we can watch fun unfold.

Thank Yourself

If you are reading this article, perhaps you have been visiting the IYCA for some period of time in the hopes of learning. Learning how to make youth sports better, safer and smarter. Learning how to maximize the fun and minimize all the other stuff.

So just take a moment and appreciate yourself, that you care about the well-being of children, and that you are a coach.

That sounds like a purpose. That feels like progress. So thank you.

Dr. Keith Cronin, DPT


About the Author: Keith J. Cronin

Keith CroninKeith J. Cronin is a physical therapist and owner of Sports and Healthcare Solutions, LLC. Keith currently supports US Operations for Dynamic Tape®, the “Original” Biomechanical Tape®, providing guidance for education, research, and distribution. He graduated with his Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) from Belmont University in 2008 and later earned his Orthopedic Certification Specialist (OCS).

Prior to graduate school, Keith was a collegiate baseball player and top-level high school cross country runner. He also had the opportunity to work as a personal trainer (CSCS) prior to his career in physical therapy, providing a very balanced approached to educating fitness and rehabilitation. Keith has focused his career on the evaluation, treatment, injury prevention, and sports conditioning strategies for athletes, with particular attention to youth sports. He currently lives in the St. Louis, MO area with his wife and two daughters, Ella and Shelby.

 

NFL Pro’s Journey Through Injuries – A Message for Your Athletes

NFL Pro’s Journey Through Injuries

Along the path to the NFL, I confronted many different forms of adversity. My journey was like many others who dare to achieve something rare. One form of adversity that I frequently faced was dealing with serious injuries. When I say serious injuries, I mean injuries that take at least six months of recovery.

Although serious injuries are physically and emotionally painful, it is important to remind your athletes that they can be excellent teachers.

My First Injury

My laundry list of serious injuries started in high school when I severely tore my left hamstring. It happened while doing jump squats. The hamstring gave way during the last set as I landed with 205 lbs on my back. My left hamstring immediately grabbed.

Instead of seeking medical attention, I fought through the sharp pain for months. The injury only worsened. Not until my explosiveness had diminished drastically did I finally see a doctor. It took me two years to fully recover from that hamstring injury. Imagine if I would have addressed it right when it happened. The recovery time would have been exponentially less.

My Second Injury

patch-510168_640My second severe injury took place months before fulfilling my childhood dream of playing college football. After finishing a rep of power cleans, I lowered the barbell loaded with 265 lbs to the ground instead of just dropping it. Poor choice and form. I felt a pop in my lower back.

For the next few days, my only symptom was back soreness. All of a sudden, about a week after the incident, my left leg went numb. I was diagnosed with a herniated disc. Improper Olympic lifting form took me on a 6-month detour from prepping for my first year of college football.

My Third and Fourth Injuries

My third and fourth severe injuries were ACL reconstructions. The first one occurred in the fourth quarter, in week thirteen during my first start as a rookie in the NFL. The fatigue of over-training had caught up to me. As I was running down on a kickoff, I attempted to stop and redirect. Unfortunately, my overworked and fatigued leg muscles gave way when my left knee twisted awkwardly rupturing my ACL.

My second ACL reconstruction was somewhat of a mystery. While doing a minor operation on my left knee, the ortho observed that my ACL was a ticking time bomb barely attached by a small strand. We opted to do a full reconstruction to ensure the stability of the knee. Pushing it too hard led to 2 ACL reconstructions and 18 months of rehab.

Thanks to modern medicine and training, I fully recovered from all of my injuries—turning potentially devastating injuries into positive learning experiences.

Lessons I Learned

Lesson #1: Listen to the body.

The body has ways of communicating. If your athletes feel an ache here or pain there, the body is indicating that “something isn’t right”. I’m not saying that any small ache or pain justifies sitting out. But learning “the why” leads to learning “the how” in recovery and preventing future problems.

For example, after having recovered from my first ACL, I began to have achilles tendonitis in that same leg from over using my calf muscle when I ran. I was taught that I needed to activate and strengthen my “glutes” in that leg to alleviate the stress off of that calf muscle. After making glute activation and strengthening a daily routine, my achilles tendonitis subsided. Properly troubleshooting aches and pains with the athlete goes a long way in fully recovering from and preventing injuries.

Lesson #2: If injured, physical abilities count for nothing.

Availability is the most important ability. That means when performance training, health is priority number one. Your athletes will need to feel good in order to play good. It’s not about how much weight your athletes lift, but how they lift that weight that counts.

For instance, performance training has become synonymous with Olympic lifting. The sport of Olympic lifting is extremely technical. Most athletes who are not Olympic lifters will naturally prioritize learning the skills of their sport over Olympic lifting—increasing the likelihood of poor technique and risking unnecessary injury. Why train for a sport with another sport?

Train your athletes like they compete while minimizing potential injury and stress on the body. There are a number of different alternatives to Olympic lifting that are more effective in developing sport specific skills and that are easier to learn, while minimizing wear and tear on the athlete.

Lesson #3: Rest is as equally important as work.

Resting for those who are strong workers can be challenging. But it is essential for optimal performance. A good night’s sleep is necessary in regenerating and re-energizing the body, mind and spirit. Tapering during the season, as I learned, is crucial. Counting a game as a high intensity workout can help in balancing the scale of rest versus work.

Wrapping it Up

Injuries are a part of athletics. Not all injuries are preventable. They are a form of adversity that, if managed correctly, can work as springboards. It all comes down to empowering your athletes to learn from the injuries. That is key.

Brady Poppinga


About the Author: Brady Poppinga

Brady PoppingaBrady Poppinga played in the NFL for eight seasons (2005 to 2010 Green Bay Packers, 2011 St. Louis Rams and 2012 Dallas Cowboys). Brady is a member of the 2010 Green Bay Packers Super Bowl championship team. After retiring from the NFL over three years ago Brady has reinvented himself as an inventor of the worlds first Omni directional smith machine.

Brady is also an entrepreneur starting up a company called Ultraflex Fitness LLC (www.myultraflex.com). He’s also a nationally recognized broadcaster (Fox Sports, Fox Deportes and Westwood 1 radio) and author of the book True Spirit of Competition.

Being bilingual, Brady made history by calling Super Bowl 48 in a purely Spanish production for the first time ever. Drawing from the training principles that he learned while playing football at the highest level, Brady has designed his own 20 to 30 minute high-intensity training program.

 

5 Injury Myths You Need to Know

Injury Myths: What You Need to Know

football-619243_640Does it just seem that some people are more injury prone than others? I know this from personal experience, I was one of them.

Perhaps that’s what drove me to become a physical therapist—a yearning to understand what was wrong with me.

Along the way I learned a few things and with that, I now share with you my favorite 5 Injury Myths.

5 Injury Myths

Injury Myth #1: “A Torn Rotator Cuff is a Torn Rotator Cuff. Doesn’t Matter How It Happened.”

 
The cause of injury is just as important as the injury itself.

I remember once having a 45-year-old male construction worker and an 18-year-old baseball pitcher both in rehab at the same time for reconstructed rotator cuffs.

What stood out in that moment was the athlete saying, “Oh, he has the same thing as me.” Not even close.

The construction worker was carrying a ladder over his shoulder and turned a corner, hit a wall, and it jerked his arm backward causing a forceful twisting of the shoulder, shredding the rotator cuff.

The baseball pitcher was the result of throwing 150+ pitches a game, back-to-back days for several years. These two injuries are not the same.

The construction worker’s injury was the result of instantaneous load that exceeded his ability to control motion. The baseball player’s injury was from years of microtrauma. The former was an accident, and the later was more deliberate.

These two are not rehabilitated the same way or for the same purpose due to age, cause, and desired return to a specific activity.

Injury Myth #2: “Kids heal faster than adults. You don’t need to worry about them as much.”

 
Oh contraire! Adults have fully formed, constructed body parts that when damaged, a blueprint exists to reform the broken parts.

It sure won’t occur as fast as children but the body’s healing mechanisms have an idea of where everything is supposed to go.

Children, particularly athletes, are in the process of writing the blueprints.

There is a pre-determined set of instructions that is being edited daily by the forces of physics. With enough beating and breaking, even the most resilient athlete may result in having these blueprints messed up.

I am not talking about legs and arms that are 3 inches shorter or longer. I am referring to subtler things such as lower legs that are prone to shin splints or bony formations in the shoulder from inappropriate friction. This stuff shows up later.

It is imperative that the body tissues get to the finish line, fully completed, and ready for the decades of life to come.

Injury Myth #3: “The more it hurts the worse the injury is.”

 
Pain is not input, it is output. Past experiences, desire, experience with handling injury, mood, environment, and education are just a few of the things that cause pain.

In our multi-billion dollar youth sports world that is high competition and high volume (both of which need a bit of balancing but that is for another blog post) this idea of pain is tricky.

Pro Tip: If there are concerns, it is best to leave it to the professionals. When your car starts making funny noise, unless you are a mechanic, you don’t open up the hood and start moving things around. Same with your young athlete—take them to the shop for a diagnostic and tune up.

Injury Myth #4: “Swelling is not a big deal as long as the body part is wrapped.”

 
Swelling does something funny to body parts, particularly joints: it makes them work pretty crappy.

Swelling is the body’s natural response to damage—starting an inflammation process to get rid of damaged tissue and restore parts to normal working order. It also shuts down muscle activity to help facilitate this regeneration.

Pro Example: Clinically, if I have an athlete recovering from an ACL surgery and during the course of sports conditioning the knee gets really swollen, I will shut everything down. Why? Because I know that thigh muscle is going to fire as fast or as strong due to the joint swelling. That could impact the stability of the joint, putting the ACL at risk. This could also be true that the same swelling makes the knee less responsive, sluggish if you will.

Fluid is not compressible, which is why we have hydraulic systems in our cars. It helps transfer energy from one area to the other because fluid cannot compress.

Everything else in your body, including nerves, ligaments, muscles, even bones are compressible and that fluid pressure wreaks havoc on all the parts affected.

Injury Myth #5: “If it hurts, just take some anti-inflammatories and it will be fine.”

 
I would like a few doctors to give their two-cents on this one but I am happy to stick with this simple statement: Stop it.

Children are not adults. If you have an athlete that is taking fifteen 200mg tablets of ibuprofen every day to get him through hockey season, just sit down and ask yourself, why?

bandage-1235337_640If your doctor made this suggestion then follow orders.

There is a reason for this, but if it’s because this OTC, cheap treatment gets your athlete through the day and without it they are miserable, limping blobs of pain, then there is no understanding of “the why”.

Almost every serious overuse injury that resulted in missing whole seasons or having surgery before the age of 20 has a similar backstory.

Many times parents and athletes do not report this to the doctor. They weren’t hiding anything, they just thought this was the norm and wasn’t worth mentioning. THIS IS NOT NORMAL!

A drug that has interactions on the body should not be taken lightly just because the athletic world has been eating them like Skittles for decades.

Dr. Keith Cronin, DPT


Get Your Prepared to Perform Free Gift Today

Learn how to leverage the Long Term Athletic Development Model to ensure your athletes are prepared to perform. In expert Wil Fleming’s free 7-minute video and PDF checklist, he covers how to create a training system that prepares young athletes to move better, get stronger and enhance their performance.

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About the Author: Keith J. Cronin

Keith CroninKeith J. Cronin is a physical therapist and owner of Sports and Healthcare Solutions, LLC. Keith currently supports US Operations for Dynamic Tape®, the “Original” Biomechanical Tape®, providing guidance for education, research, and distribution. He graduated with his Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) from Belmont University in 2008 and later earned his Orthopedic Certification Specialist (OCS).

Prior to graduate school, Keith was a collegiate baseball player and top-level high school cross country runner. He also had the opportunity to work as a personal trainer (CSCS) prior to his career in physical therapy, providing a very balanced approached to educating fitness and rehabilitation. Keith has focused his career on the evaluation, treatment, injury prevention, and sports conditioning strategies for athletes, with particular attention to youth sports. He currently lives in the St. Louis, MO area with his wife and two daughters, Ella and Shelby.

 

Why Do ACL Tears Occur?

ACL Tears: Why Do They Occur?

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of four main ligaments in the knee and provides a significant amount of stability during agility and sports specific movements.

Unfortunately, over 200,000 athletes are affected by ACL tears each year, and even more importantly the ratio of females to males is 9:1.

The most common age for ACL tears to occur ranges from 15-45 y/o with the primary focus being the youth sports population due to the higher demand and intensity of youth sports. (Griffin, 2000 & Chapman, 2001)

70% of all ACL tears are found to be non-contact in nature. This means that 70% of all ACL tears result from a biomechanical abnormality or insufficiency.

They can also result from an athlete performing a sports specific movement incorrectly causing too much stress on the ACL than it can withstand, resulting in a tear.

The other 30% of all ACL tears occur due to a contact force during a practice or game. For example, a contact ACL injury is when a football player tears their ACL by having a linemen tackle them on the side of the knee.

Both non-contact and contact ACL injuries most commonly occur in basketball, soccer, skiing, and football. (Griffin, 2000 & Chapman, 2001)

One of the Biggest Questions Is…Why do ACL Tears Cccur??

Early Specialization Among Youth Sports

 
Overall, youth sports in America today are completely flawed, secondary to youth athletes specializing in one or two sports too soon.

When early specialization occurs there is a lack of skill development with basic human movements leading to kids in America becoming undeveloped, under-prepared and over-exposed.

Athletes who focus too soon on one sport during the developmental process can cause their bodies to be exposed to inappropriate developmental stressors, therefore leading to injury and poor performance.

Pro Tip: It is highly recommended to encourage all youth athletes to participate in a variety of sports and activities to allow for proper development and well-rounded athletes. “You need to crawl before you walk.”

Knee Valgus Angles

 
A knee valgus angle is defined by the angle formed at the knee joint when it goes inward utilizing the tibia and femur as the axes “knocked knees”. During all functional and sports specific movements it is ideal to see 5 degrees or less of knee valgus.

When athletes are not trained correctly and/or do not have the proper body awareness during functional and sports specific movements, increased knee valgus angles at the knee are common causing significant amounts of stress on the ACL. (Hewett et al, 2006)

Poor Form and Muscular Activation/Strength with Functional Movements

 
It is important for all athletes to understand proper form with all functional and sports specific movements and to develop a solid baseline level of strength in all musculature groups important for their given sport.

It is common to see several athletes on a field performing sports specific movements with poor form, naturally increasing stress on the knee.

The lack of cross training for a given sport to develop the proper amount of muscle activation and strength in muscles is very common.

Pro tip: Due to the higher demands and intensity of sports, it is crucial for all athletes to participate in a well-rounded cross training program including balance, strength, coordination, education with verbal and visual feedback etc. This is to make sure each individual athlete understands proper form with all sports specific movements.

Balance and Proprioception Deficits

 
Balance is defined by the ability for an athlete to maintain stability and control during sports specific and functional movements. Proprioception is the ability for an athlete to understand where the body is in space during a given time both on and off the field.

Both variables are important for every athlete to develop early on to allow for participation in an open environment and demonstrate control and stability with sports specific movements.

If an athlete does not participate in a training program with balance and proprioception as components of the program, they are at greater risk for ACL injuries during maturation. (AAOS, 2007)

Poor Neuromuscular Education and Control

 
The development of accurate and efficient neurological pathways to muscles during the maturation of a youth athlete is crucial.

The ability of the brain and important muscle groups to communicate allows an athlete to develop proper muscle activation, timing, control, and stability with functional and sports specific movements.

If the proper neuromuscular pathways are not developed and an athlete does not participate in the proper amount of neuromuscular education within their training, they are more at risk for ACL injuries. (AAOS, 20007)

Gender Specific Anatomy

 
The primary reason for the 9:1 ratio of females to males being more at risk for ACL injuries is due to gender specific anatomy.

The first area to focus on is the q angle.

It is defined by the angle developed when you draw a line from the ASIS of the pelvis (bony landmarks on front of hips) to the mid-line of the patella “kneecap” and a second line from the tibial tuberosity (bony landmark below your kneecap) through the midline of the patella.

Women by nature have an average Q angle of 11-15 degrees which is 4-5 degrees greater than males. A larger average q angle for women compared to men is related to having a wider pelvis meant for childbirth.

A wider pelvis will naturally cause larger knee valgus angles leading to increased risk of ACL tears. (Griffin, 2000 & Chapman, 2001)

Secondly, common trends among women compared to men tend to lead to significant quad dominance, weakness of hip extensors “glutes” and over pronation of feet “flat feet” during functional movement causing increased stress on the knee.

Lastly, female hormones during their monthly menstrual cycle have been shown to lead to ligamental laxity putting women more at risk for ACL injuries. (Griffin, 2000, Chapman, 2001, & Hewett, 2006)

Summary

Encourage all youth athletes to participate in well-rounded training programs and ACL injury prevention programs to ideally allow an athlete to develop and mature properly, prevent injury, and maximize sports performance.

Brittany Lillie PT, DPT, CSCS
Brittany Lillie


References

  1. Chapman MW. Chapmans Orthopaedic Surgery. 3rd Edition, Volume 3, 2001; 2348-2388
  2. Grifffin LY. Noncontact Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries: Risk Factors and Prevention Strategies. Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. 2000; 8: 141-150.
  1. Hewett TE, Myer GD, Ford KR. Anterior cruciate ligament injuries in female athletes: Part 1, mechanisms and risk factors. American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2006 Feb; 34(2):299-311. Hardaker W
  1. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, July 2007, Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury: Surgical Considerations, http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00297#A00297_R4_anchor (July 11, 2008).

Develop Well-Rounded Athletes by Preparing Them To Perform

Dr. Lillie references the importance of developing well-rounded athletes, which is why it is so important that your athletes are Prepared to Perform!
 
IYCA-LTAD-LM-Blog AD-V1
 

5 Tips You Need to Know About Knee Injuries

Tips About Knee Injuries

football-619243_640Knee injuries are rampant, and in the physical therapy world they tend to keep us employed.

There are so many types of knee injuries that, for coaches, it can be hard to know what is what.

Patellofemoral Syndrome? Patellofemoral Dysfunction? Lateral Tracking Patella? Did you know those are the same thing?

So to break down the barriers to understanding knee injuries, here are…

5 Knee Related Tips that Every Coach Should Know

Tip #1: Basic Anatomy Factoid

The knee is the largest, most unstable, joint in the body. Somehow our evolution created a very large, somewhat disarticulated joint with a bony hockey puck on top, and 4 ligaments stringing it all together.

The ankle can move in two planes of motion very well. The hip moves in three planes of motion, and then the part between the two moves in one and if it moves in three, you have now lost your ACL!

This body part is set up for failure so that’s why tip #1 will hopefully shed light on tips #2-5.

Tip #2: The Joint is Sensitive But for Good Reason

There are millions of receptors coursing through the knee that transmit a lot of information.

When cutting on a basketball court and a little rotation at the knee is registered, what happens? Simple, the hips and lower back rotate—and the athlete goes up onto the ball of the foot to allow fluid motion to prevent twisting. This creates strong and efficient movement patterns.

The orientation of the kneecap (patella) allows the quad to generate increased force by making a bigger lever arm with every jump, land or sprint. It’s a great shock absorber when used correctly.

So when aches and pains start showing up in the knee, the message to the head is “I can’t handle the pressure, please stop.” Just think of it as a barometer for the lower body.

Ankles and hips have this type of capacity but they are also so intricately involved in balance strategy that they are focused on other tasks.

Tip #3: Address the Problem Early

Rolled ankles occur frequently. Hip joint injuries are less common, such as a labral tear, and when they happen it will really slow down or stop an athlete.

As a clinician that teaches online courses for Patellofemoral Syndrome and ACL Rehabilitation, please heed my recommendation to not ignore knee pain because there are a lot of causes.

For young athletes the most common response is “it’s just growing pains”, right? Sure, that could be the answer but let ME, (the Physical Therapist), figure that out.

Before, I mentioned the idea of the knee as a shock absorber. If a knee cannot handle the load, pressure, force, etc. going through it and the athlete continues to push through, changes will start to occur.

Pro Tip: Correctly using the forces of physics can build great athletes but when mismanaged becomes a wrecking ball.

Problems are much easier to address in the first couple of weeks. Timing and positioning mechanics of the knee—when pushed too far—eventually fall apart. Excessive loading through the patellar tendon can cause painful bone formation that we know as Osgood Schlatter’s.

Constant pain behind or on the side of the knee cap can cause maltracking. This is due to a bad combo of tightness and weakness in the quad muscles, known as Patellofemoral Syndrome.

Repeated abuse of the knee joint will begin to shut down quad strength because of this awful pain/inflammation cycle. If there is any uncertainty to the cause of knee pain, get the athlete to the doctor and hopefully to a sports-minded clinician that is going to figure out the underlying cause.

Pro Tip: The longer knee pain persists, the longer it will take to correct the problem.

Tip #4: Pain Does Not Equal Damage

This applies to any injury, but I find it very relevant to the knee. The knee is a very painful structure, as I mentioned—lots of tiny cells that relay information with every step. It is pretty well known in the physical therapy world that the fat pad behind the kneecap, which provides cushioning, when pinched is “drop to the floor” painful.

An IT band that slaps awkwardly across the outside of the knee joint may also take an athlete’s breath away. While both incredibly painful, when addressed appropriately can be quickly resolved.

Bringing this back to the “get it checked out” message I have already conveyed—as a coach it is important to realize this because fear and doubt will settle into the athlete’s brain.

Pro Tip: Pain is a way for the body to say “Hey, I don’t like what is going on here, do something about it.” Lots of things affect pain so getting a clear understanding of the cause is critical, before some real damage starts.

Tip #5: It’s Too Important to Cover Up

If you do not know what the issue is affecting the knee, don’t cover up the problem. I am talking about all the braces, bands, clips, gels, and bottles of anti-inflammatories that young athletes get rigged up with.

If your doctor or therapist recommended something like this, absolutely listen and follow the sound advice.

If an athlete is limping around and you slap on a compression sleeve and wrap, and then it miraculously feels better, it doesn’t mean the issue doesn’t still exist. The typical response is “back to business as usual”. STOP, and direct that child towards the doctor.

As adults, we mask things to make it through the workday, manage pains at home so we can bend over and bathe the kids, or perhaps to participate in recreational softball tournaments.

Children are not adults.

Take Home Message

A lot of the article may be interpreted as “any knee problem, take an athlete to the doctor.”

If an athlete’s knee is sore after doing box jumps for the first time, is slow moving following a run into a wall, or is a bit irritated after increasing running mileage from 5 to 7 miles, there are cases where you know a potential cause or instigator.

For the athletes that have been limping around for weeks and getting worse, a professional medical evaluation is warranted. I am always going to error on the side of caution with this type of thing because at the least, an athlete will get their part checked out and learn ways to head off problems before they start.

Dr. Keith Cronin, DPT


Help Prevent Injuries by Preparing Athletes To Perform

Learn how to leverage the Long Term Athletic Development Model to ensure your athletes are prepared to perform. In expert Wil Fleming’s free 7-minute video and PDF checklist, he covers how to create a training system that prepares young athletes to move better, get stronger, and enhance their performance.

Learn More


About the Author: Keith J. Cronin

Keith CroninKeith J. Cronin is a physical therapist and owner of Sports and Healthcare Solutions, LLC. Keith currently supports US Operations for Dynamic Tape®, the “Original” Biomechanical Tape®, providing guidance for education, research, and distribution. He graduated with his Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) from Belmont University in 2008 and later earned his Orthopedic Certification Specialist (OCS).

Prior to graduate school, Keith was a collegiate baseball player and top-level high school cross country runner. He also had the opportunity to work as a personal trainer (CSCS) prior to his career in physical therapy, providing a very balanced approached to educating fitness and rehabilitation. Keith has focused his career on the evaluation, treatment, injury prevention, and sports conditioning strategies for athletes, with particular attention to youth sports. He currently lives in the St. Louis, MO area with his wife and two daughters, Ella and Shelby.

Additional noteworthy items about Keith:

  • Keith is currently a reviewer for the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy (IJSPT) on a variety of topics including throwing athletes, concussions, and ACL rehabilitation.
  • Keith has produced several online CEU courses for PTWebcuation.com on the topics of running injuries, ACL rehabilitation, Patellofemoral Syndrome, and injuries to the Foot and Ankle.
  • In 2012, Keith participated in a concussion education program in Newcastle, OK that resulted in the documentary “The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer” which had several runs on PBS worldwide.
  • Keith has also been published in a variety of media, publishing almost 100 articles through venues including MomsTEAM.com, Advanced Magazine, the 9s Magazine, the American Coaching Academy, and Suite101.
  • Keith was also featured on Fox2News several times on topics of concussions and ACL injuries.
  • In 2008, Keith was a winner of the Olin Business Cup at Washington University for his product innovation “Medibite” a jaw rehabilitation system designed to improve the outcomes for individuals suffering TMJ dysfunction.

 

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.

Resistance Bands and Olympic Lifting

By Dave Schmitz

 

Wil Fleming recently wrote a very powerful article on “Why Olympic Lifts” that I found very thought provoking.

I agree with Wil that when you begin to discuss Olympic lifting with coaches, red flags immediately goes up about concerns for proper teaching, concerns for safety, and the stigma that Olympic lifting is only for the highly skilled or older athletes. For those coaches I understand their opinion and will not argue those points. Instead I will pose the question, is there a way to achieve some of the benefits of Olympic lifting without struggling with the teaching challenges or putting athletes at risk for injury.

As I read Wil’s article I continued to see a strong correlation between the benefits of resistance band training and Olympic lift training. Therefore as a follow up to Wil’s outstanding article, I wanted to touch on all 5 of Wil’s key points and relate them back to how resistance bands could assist young athletes and coaches with “improving” Olympic Lifting skill sets.

Please note that I am not suggesting you replicate Olympic lifting with bands but rather that you can get some of the neuromuscular benefits of Olympic Lifting by training with resistance bands. I also feel that performing certain movement with resistance bands will carry over to helping young athletes become better Olympic Lifting candidates.

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Changing Views on Long-Held Beliefs for Training Young Athletes

Training Young Athletes: 3 Changing Views

Training young athletes

Foam Rolling, aerobic training, and ice: In terms of training young athletes, conventional wisdom says one thing, but does the evidence really support it?

We all know that the profession of training and coaching is a constantly evolving process of learning and adapting. Heck, that is what training itself is all about: staying ahead of adaptation to make continued progress.

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Stop the Insanity!

 

Young Athletes Sports-Specific Training Insanity

 

By Mike Mejia
 

You see the ads all the time. Typically rife with promises of “radical increases” in strength, speed and power, they grab the attention of athletes, parents and coaches alike. Capitalizing on the desire of young athletes to gain any possible advantage over their peers, sports-specific training programs have been popping up all over the place in recent years. Whether it’s a soccer player seeking a more powerful kick, or a basketball player that wants to increase his, or her vertical leap, parents are shelling out big money for training that’s aimed at increasing their child’s physical prowess in a given sport. The question is, though, how specific does a training program really need to be for bodies that are still developing and as such, often have a variety of needs that far outweigh the enhancement of particular sports skills?
 

The unfortunate reality is that often times these programs do little more than contribute to the rapidly increasing rate of overuse injuries currently seen in youth sports! By replicating the same movement patterns and taxing the same muscle groups that are already being overused during practice and competition, this emphasis on “sports-specific” training is the exact opposite of what young athletes actually need. Rather than seek to enhance overall athleticism and reduce injury risk, many of these programs load kids up with bands, sleds and various other types of resistance, long before their bodies are physically prepared to do so. The thought process being that by overloading specified movement patterns, the athlete will be better able to meet the specific demands of his, or her sport.
 

Is this really necessary…
 

Young athletes sport specific training

 

Seemingly sound thinking; particularly when applied to young athletes age 16-17 and older, who’ve likely been training longer and as a result, possess a more sound physical foundation to work off of. Even then, however, such athletes should be thoroughly assessed to identify any weak links (i.e. strength and flexibility imbalances) that may serve as potential precursors to injury. For younger kids though, this trend towards sport specificity is an unmitigated mistake- especially when the intent is future sports stardom! As experts in the field of athletic development and sports conditioning continually point out, the vast majority of world class athletes didn’t specialize too early and instead, were exposed to a wide variety of sports that helped them develop more in the way of global athleticism.
 

In direct contrast to this, nowadays we commonly see kids who despite dominating in a particular sport, lack the ability to run properly, skip, throw a ball, change direction, land from a jump, or execute a host of other basic physical skills that require efficient, coordinated movement.
 

That’s why I’m imploring parents and coaches alike to stop buying into the hype and subjecting young athletes to this type of approach.

 

Get your kids working on improving things like mobility, flexibility and systemic strength and resist the temptation to have them mimic specific sports skills through training. If they play tennis, instead of having them try to replicate their swing against rubber resistance tubing, have them work on general core strengthening. If basketball’s their game, forget all of the intensive plyometric drills until they’ve first demonstrated the ankle mobility and knee stability necessary to safely engage in this type of training.
 

Granted, this may not be the popular approach and is in fact, often the last thing that scholarship obsessed athletes (and their parents) want to hear. I guess it just doesn’t pack the same marketing punch as potential division one success, or lucrative pro contracts. However, with up to half of the 2 million sports injuries suffered each year by middle and high school aged young athletes being attributed to overuse, it’s a message that desperately needs to be heard. It also happens to be where this industry is eventually headed and exactly the tact we need to take if we’re ever really going to get this young athletes injury epidemic under control.
 

 

Speed and Agility Training Program for Youth Football

Making a Speed and Agility Training Program Work for Everyone

There is often a disconnect between what we know is the ideal training for young athletes and what parents/coaches want for them—especially when it comes to a speed and agility training program.

We know through our education and in-the-trenches experience how to devise an athletic development program and implement it with athletes of various abilities and sports interests.

On the other hand, parents and coaches all too often adopt a “results now” mentality, and they’ve been fed loads of misinformation to boot. What are we to do when the opportunity presents itself to work with an entire youth league of athletes with a board president and coaches who have a philosophy that doesn’t match our ideals?

Make sure you keep your focus on their needs by asking questions—and a lot of them. You will gain the trust of the coaching staff when they know you are there to help them versus taking control over any aspect of their practice sessions.

If you do this with care and patience, the outcome can be very beneficial to your business and most importantly to the young athletes involved.

Youth Football Training Program Case Study

Speed and agility training programAfter several conversations with the president of the youth football league and some of his coaches, I was able to ascertain the areas they were most concerned with. They were, in their words:

1. “Revamping the warm up” to get the kids ready to play

2. Agility in small spaces

3. Injury prevention

Once we narrowed it down to these specifics, I could devise a game plan. They did not want the new programming to be intrusive to their practice time or ability to coach football.

Keep in mind the relationship with the president of this youth football league began nearly 2 years ago. Be patient when engaging coaches.

The outcome was to implement a pre-written youth football training program for every age group in the youth football league that the coaches would learn and implement for every practice.

What we gained from this exchange was exposure to every football player from 1st grade through 8th grade and the buy in of every coach. You just can’t buy that type of exposure for your business.

Upon completion of the last practice session, we set a time for the coaches and I to meet in order to troubleshoot any issues they were having.

The Nuts and Bolts of the Speed and Agility Training Program

Our situation was far from ideal. The coaches had limited time to learn their new programs. I only had one practice session with each team, and there was not enough time to include everything I wanted. Therefore, I knew the programs had to be prioritized.

The speed and agility training program had to deliver what the president and coaches asked for, and it had to be simple enough for both coaches and players to learn.

Templates Put into Action for Each Program

Not included are the descriptions and key points for each age group that were provided for each coach.

Pembroke Titans Football Mighty Mites (1st & 2nd Grade)

–Warm Up–
1. Reactive Game or Fun Activity
    a. Simon Says
    b. Tag Variations
    c. Movement Mirroring (coach or each other)
    d. Rhythm Machine (clapping)
    e. Coach’s Choice
2. Monster Walks
3. Bear Crawls
4. Dragon Walks
5. Log Rolls

–Speed/Agility/Strength = Coordination Training–
1. Scramble to Balance 2x Each leg
2. Rats/Rabbits
3. Red Light – Green Light (add football themed lights)
4. Push Up Hold/High Fives (partners)

–Speed and Agility–
1. Dynamic Repeats (run to stop)
2. Dynamic Repeats with Return (run, stop and return)
3. 4 x 4 x 4 Drill (survive for 7 seconds)
4. Bear Crawl to Hand Taps 6:4
5. Forward Crab Walk to Table Top 6:1

–Cool Down–
It is so important to give parents and coaches what they want while staying true to your beliefs as a coach. Below is a perfect example.

A formal cool down is not necessary from a developmental standpoint and static stretching is not advised for this age group. To acclimate the kids to a structure and expectation for future youth football practices, you can put them through the following passive active stretching activities.

1. Cobra 2 Second Hold x 5
2. Alternating Knee Hugs x 5 Each
3. Around the Worlds 2x Each Leg


Pembroke Titans Football Mites (3rd & 4th Grade)

–Warm up–
1. Activity – Game, Laps, etc…Coaches Choice
2. Spiderman 2 x 10
3. Alternating Supine Extension 20 Second Hold
4. Squat to Stand 2 x 5 (squat, knees out, arms up and stand)
5. Prone Extensions 2 x 8
6. Lunge with Toe Touch 1 x 10 Each
Speed and agility training program 67. Dynamic Warm Up
    a. Skipping Patterns
         i. Straight
         ii. High
         iii. Back
         iv. Side
    b. Knee Hugs 1 x 10
    c. Butt Kicks
    d. Straight Leg March 1 x 10
    e. Heel Walks/Toe Walks 1 x 10 Each
    f. Side Shuffle/Carioca (tight) 10 yds Each x 2

–Speed and Agility–
1. Dynamic Repeats (run to stop)
2. Dynamic Repeats with Return (run, stop and return)
3. 4 x 4 x 4 Drill (survive for 7 seconds)
4. Bear Crawl to Hand Taps 6:4
5. Forward Crab Walk to Table Top 6:1

Speed and agility training program 7–Cool Down–
1. Static Stretching
    a. Hamstrings
    b. Inner Thigh
    c. ITB/Hips
    d. Cobra Stretch
    e. Calf Stretch

Choice as needed


Pembroke Titans Football Pee Wees (5th & 6th Grade)

–Warm up–
1. Activity – Game, Laps, etc…Coaches Choice
2. Spiderman/Inside Elbow to Ground 2 x 10
3. Alternating Supine Extension 2 x 8 Each Side
4. Squat to Stand 2 x 5 (squat, knees out, arms up and stand)
5. Prone Extensions 2 x 10
6. Lateral Lunge with Toe Touch 1 x 10 Each
7. Dynamic Warm Up
    a. Skipping Patterns
         i. Straight
         ii. High
         iii. Back
         iv. Side
    b. Knee Hugs 1 x 10
    c. Butt Kicks
    d. Straight Leg March 1 x 10
    e. Heel Walks/Toe Walks 1 x 10 Each
    f. Side Shuffle/Carioca (tight) 10 yds Each x 2

–Speed and Agility–
1. Pro Agility
    a. 5-Hold-10
    b. 5-10-Hold
    c. 5-10-5
2. 4 x 4 x 4 Drill (survive for 7 seconds)
3. Bear Crawl to Push Up 6:1
4. Forward Crab Walk to Table Top 6:1

–Cool Down–
1. Static Stretching
    a. Hamstrings
    b. Inner Thigh
    c. ITB/Hips
    d. Cobra Stretch
    e. Calf Stretch

Choice as needed


Pembroke Titans Football Midgets (7th & 8th Grade)

–Warm up–
1. Activity – Game, Laps, etc…Coaches Choice
2. Spiderman with Hip Lift 2 x 10
3. Supine Extension with Rotation 2 x 8 Each Side
4. Squat to Stand 2 x 5 (squat, knees out, arms up and stand)
5. Atlas Stretch 2 x 6 Each
6. Prone Extensions 2 x 10
7. Alternating Lateral Lunge Walk 1 x 10
8. Dynamic Warm Up
    a. Skipping Patterns
         i. Straight
         ii. High
         iii. Back
         iv. Side
    b. Knee Lift/Heel Lift 1 x 10
    c. Straight Leg March 1 x 10
    d. Cradles
    e. Heel Walks/Toe Walks 1 x 10 Each

–Speed and Agility–
1. Pro Agility
    a. 5-Hold-10
    b. 5-10-Hold
    c. 5-10-5
2. 4 x 4 x 4 Drill (survive for 7 seconds)
3. Turn and Burn (Hip turn and go)
4. Bear Crawl to Push Up 6:1
5. Forward Crab Walk to Table Top 6:1

–Cool Down–
1. Static Stretching
    a. Hamstrings
    b. Inner Thigh
    c. ITB/Hips
    d. Cobra Stretch
    e. Calf Stretch

Choice as needed

Summary

So there you have some great examples of a youth football speed and agility training program that can be applied to nearly any sport. You also have some tips on how to deal with coaches to best suit their needs and ideals.

Dave Gleason


About the Author: Dave Gleason

Speed and agility training programDave Gleason is the owner and head coach of Athletic Revolution in Pembroke, MA. Dave’s career passions are training young athletes 6-18 years old as well as playing an integral role in the development of Athletic Revolution International. Dave was the 2010 IYCA Member of the Year, columnist and presenter. A proud member of the IYCA, Dave is honored to be named to the IYCA Board of Experts.


Want to Develop Speed and Agility in Your Athletes?

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Understanding Low Back Pain in Adolescents

 

Low Back Pain in Adolescents

 

By Jake Moore

 

Every one of us has worked with a young athlete with low back pain. In fact, we have all likely have worked with and missed the signs of serious low back pain in our athletes. Looking back at my career so far, I’m sure I have. Of those young athletes with lower back pain, up to 47% have spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis (1). Spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis are injuries to the posterior vertebrae and result from excessive spinal extension loading. Unfortunately too many young athletes are over-trained and exposed to poor training, leaving them at risk for these injuries. On the positive side, these injuries are preventable with good movement training and knowledgeable coaches. As IYCA professionals we expect to be held to a higher standard than youth fitness professionals when working with young athletes. If we can recognize the signs of serious back pain, and how to train to prevent such injuries, it will go a long ways in diminishing low back pain amongst your youth fitness athletes, help those with low back pain get timely treatment and decrease the impact of low back pain into adulthood.

 

Young athletes are at a vulnerable time to develop low back pain from excessive trunk extension. In late middle school and early high school they may be participating in multiple sports throughout the year. It is not uncommon to be in-season for one sport and still participate in off-season training for their club teams. (It would be worth another article to discuss how these athletes would benefit more from developing fundamental movement skills instead of being in-season all year.) In addition these athletes will be asked to begin a youth fitness or strength and conditioning program in their school as part of their athletic participation. Meanwhile this athlete is at a time in their development where:
1. The rate of bone growth is often outpacing the lengthening of muscle and fascia, leading to tight hips and poor posture.
2. Growth plates are still open and bone density is not yet fully developed.
3. Core strength is not developed as the body adapts to having longer limbs.
4. Motor control and posture are continuing to be shaped.
If these athletes are asked to perform fully loaded strength movements with poor form with an immature and ill-prepared body, the body has but one choice to accomplish this task. That is to hang onto ligaments and bony restraints instead of utilizing muscular control.

 

youth fitness

 

Pelvic influence on spinal curves

 

The spine has three curves. A lordosis, or slight backward bend at the cervical and lumbar spine, and a slight kyphosis or forward bend at the thoracic spine. This helps the spine absorb shock and increases stability versus a completely vertically stacked spine. The lumbar spine position is controlled largely by the pelvis. The pelvis is able to anteriorly and posteriorly rotate based on the muscle pull on the front and back side of the body. The images below demonstrate the muscles involved in creating rotation of the pelvis. The line of action of the hip flexors and spinal erectors pull on the pelvis to create anterior rotation. This anterior rotation results in increased lumbar lordosis. On the other hand, the glutes, hamstrings and abdominals create posterior rotation and a decrease in lumbar lordosis. It’s common to see individuals with inhibited glute and abdominal musculature and tight hip flexors and spinal erectors. The result is a tendency to position the pelvis in anterior tilt and increase compression of the lumbar vertebrae. When this occurs repeatedly over time, the posterior structures of the lumbar vertebrae are at risk for injury.

 

youth fitness

 

Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis

 

Some of the most significant injuries affecting adolescents are spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis. We all have likely trained athletes with this injury, whether we knew it or not. Spondylolysis refers to a stress reaction of overload to part of the vertebrae. In the lumbar spine this is often the pedicle or pars interarticularis. Spondylolisthesis is an advancement of spondylolysis with an identifiable fracture to the vertebrae and possible forward slippage.

 

youth fitness

 

The pedicles and pars interarticularis are located on the back side of the vertebrae and are placed under compressive and shear load when the spine moves into extension. Injuries to these structures often occur gradually over time. As an athlete is asked to do exercises that are beyond their ability for the core musculature to control, the lower back will drift towards extension to find stability. Think about trying to bend a copper wire. As you initially bend the wire a hinge point develops. As you do this over and over again the wire will bend more easily and eventually break. This is exactly what is happening to young athletes with spondylolysis. It’s critical that these individuals get treatment before it is too late (spondylolisthesis).

 

youth fitness

 

Recognizing serious low back injury

 

To recognize the signs of spondylolysis or athletes at risk, look at posture, core strength, hip mobility and activities. Posture is often excessively lordotic when doing squats, overhead presses, deadlifts, back extensions, push-ups and planks. These athletes may be some of your more capable squatters and deadlifters because they understand how to keep the spine from rounding forward. The problem is they can’t control spine extension. Athletes with poor core strength are more apt to use this type of strategy to make-up for inadequate active lumbar stabilization.

 

youth fitness

 

An athlete with limited hip mobility is also at risk. Without flexibility in the hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors, the athlete will have to bend more through the spine on order to perform sport specific or weight room movements. Tight hip flexors will pull the spine into excess extension and poor glute and hamstring mobility will force the athlete to contract more through spinal erectors. The end result either way is increased posterior spinal loading. Any athlete who has made recent large increases in loading in the weight room should be monitored closely for low back pain. Football players and gymnasts seem to be most at risk as well as athletes participating in multiple sports at the same time.

 

Initial symptoms of spondylolysis may be a dull ache in the back with no initial onset. These athletes often have the most pain with running and jumping due to large ground contact forces. Squats, cleans, deadlifts, overhead presses, planks and leg lifts are also exercises that can increase symptoms. These athletes may be able to do every exercise in your program but have pain doing it. These symptoms may go on for months before they bring it to your attention. It may even recur every year, increasing during track season for example, going away during the summer only to return during football season. Once diagnosed, these athletes may be held out of sports and put in a brace for up to 6 weeks with another 4-6 weeks of rehab before full sport participation. An athlete who develops spondylolisthesis may battle low back pain on and off for the rest of their lives.

 


Keys to prevention of Low Back Pain in Adolescents Through Youth Fitness Programs

 

Low Back Pain Youth Fitness Solution #1
Teach pelvic tilt. Understanding how to pelvic tilt is fundamental to developing awareness of the position of the spine and pelvis. An athlete who does not know how to posteriorly pelvic tilt will have difficulty controlling trunk extension and rest on boney structures during exercise. The athlete who cannot anterioly tilt the pelvis will have a hard time learning how to hip hinge and keep neutral spine with squats and deadlifts. Teaching pelvic tilt is easily done if doing and floor based core exercise. Have your athletes start with knees bent, feet flat. Have athletes practice arching the lower back up off the floor, keeping the glutes and shoulders down, then have them smash the lower back down into the floor. This can be progressed to quadruped, tall kneeling and athletic stance positions. Once your athletes understand pelvic tilt, many of your strength exercises will be easier to teach.

 
Low Back Pain Youth Fitness Solution #2
Train in neutral spine. Have your athlete’s pelvic tilt both ways and then find a happy medium. That’s roughly what we would call neutral lumbar spine. To find neutral spine a stick placed along the lower back works well. The athlete should be able to contact the stick at the sacrum, thoracic spine and back of the head.

 

youth fitness

 

Floor based core exercise should use neutral spine as well. Dead bug progressions work very well here. Have your athletes lift one leg or extend one leg and opposite arm, keeping neutral spine. Check under their back to be sure there isn’t an increase in the gap between the spine and the floor. Exercises such as double leg straight leg lifts will be too challenging for most athletes without a progression. This is why kids put their hands under their butt if asked to do excessive leg lifts with a weak core.

 

Look at how your athletes perform planks. Ideally the glutes should be tight and spine neutral. The pelvis position should not change when doing planks or push-ups. If it does, then the abdominals are fatigued or the athlete has poor core control and the lower back passive restraints will bear the load. Discontinue the set. This means push-ups may be limited more by core strength than by upper body strength.

 

youth fitness

 

Neutral spine applies for other strength exercises as well. Athletes should be able to use the force couples around the pelvis, engaging the glutes and abdominals to help control pelvic position. Exercises should maintain lumbar lordosis without forcing end range lumbar extension. Back extensions for example should be taken to full hip extension without hyper-extending the low back. For strength exercises, the cues to squeeze the glutes and tighten the abs will often help create balanced forces around the pelvis to control excessive pelvic tilt.

 

youth fitness

 

Low Back Pain Youth Fitness Solution #3
Improve hip mobility. As mentioned earlier, the hip flexors can create a force pulling the pelvis into anterior rotation, increasing lumbar lordosis. Keeping the hip flexors mobility is essential to allowing for neutral spine positioning when strength training and running. For younger athletes a specific static hip flexor stretch is not necessary. You can adequately train the hip flexors with lunges and split squats to develop mobility and neuromuscular control. Again use a dowel held along the spine and cue abs tight to improve pelvic control during the movement. On the other end of the spectrum, the athlete with tight hamstrings may not be able to utilize their glutes well when doing deadlifts, squats or getting into athletic stance. Getting the hamstrings more mobile will help young athletes access their glute strength and decrease demands on the lumbar extensors. Again, an isolated static hamstring stretch is not needed. Get your athletes to hip hinge with a stick and RDL with a neutral spine and you will develop functional hamstring mobility and trunk stability. These types of exercises along with many of the hip mobility exercises from your IYCA certification will help your athletes develop great hip mobility and allow for decreased demands on the lumbar spine during training and sport participation.

 

If you encounter Low Back Pain in Adolescents or an athlete who complains of LBP, take it seriously. Suggest that they see a therapist or physician for further evaluation. If their back pain is still there, suggest they see an orthopedic specialist. To help diminish the risk of spondylolysis, teach pelvic control through fundamental movement patterns and core exercise. Correct excessive spine extension just as much as you would the athlete who tends to round over. Teaching athletes how to move well and stay injury free is the essence of an IYCA professional and avoiding Low Back Pain in Adolescents. Being aware of the risk of spondylolysis in adolescent athletes will help direct those who need it to medical attention while improving the quality of training for all our athletes.

 

 

1. Motley G, Nyland J, Jacobs J, Caborn D. The pars interarticularis stress reaction, spondylolysis, and spondylolisthesis progression. Journal of Athletic Training 1998; 33 (4): 351-358

 

If you are interested in learning more about proper programming for youth fitness programs check out the IYCA Program Design System.

youth fitness

 

 

Using Complexes In Warm Ups to Improve The Skills Of Young Athletes

 

Young Athletes weightlifting specific warm-ups

Young athletes olympic lifts warm up tips

 

By Wil Fleming

 

When your program is full of barbell strength training , in particular the Olympic lifts, it is important to sharpen the skills of your young athletes with a weightlifting specific warm-up.

 

A general warm-up is necessary for young athletes to increase mobility and activation, prior to training. Once the athlete is warmed up in general however, a specific warm-up for the days activities should be used to prepare.

 

In all sports the general warm-up is followed by a specific warm-up, baseball players should touch a ball before actually throwing out the first pitch, basketball players should take a couple shots before the buzzer sounds, just as in those scenarios, in strength training it is important to use some external loading before the training of the day.

 

A complex is the perfect way to do that.

 

Complexes are multiple movements done sequentially without rest in between movements. In order to complete a complex it is important to complete all the prescribed reps of one particular movement before moving on to the next drill.

 

Complexes can be a tremendous tool for conditioning as well, but in this case I would like to think of them for warm-up only.

 

The great thing about complexes is that they can really include whatever it is that you want for a given day. For my athletes I think that they are a great source of variation in the program, and a great way to challenge them on a given day.

 

I typically design complexes around what the movements of the day will be, if our athletes are to be cleaning in the session ahead, I will design a complex that includes clean movements. If we are snatching, then the complex will include the snatch.

 

Designing a complex

 

Limiting factors:

 

Athletes should be able to complete the complex without a severe break in proper technique. Complexes will have one movement typically that will be the limiting factor in the amount of weight that is on the bar.

 

For example: A complex of 5 exercises- Hang Clean, Front Squat, Push Press, RDL and Bent over row. In this complex , for nearly all athletes the bent over row will be the movement on which they will struggle the most with a given weight. In this instance the weight that an athlete can use for the prescribed reps on a bent over row

 

Selecting Exercises

 

Selection of exercises should mimic what the athletes will be asked to do in the training session later in the day. It is also important to use the LIGHTER weight of a complex to work on areas in which many athletes struggle. In the clean or snatch that is the pull around the knee area, and with extension of the hips. Including a movement that will specifically work on that area of the lifts is important.

 

Exercises should be selected in an order that moves logically for the athletes. This means that the starting points of each movement should be similar to the previous one.

 

For example: A complex that includes Front squats, to RDL’s, to Push Press becomes much more difficult due to the fact that the bar has go from resting on the shoulders, to the hands and back to resting on the shoulders. Changing the order from Front Squat, to Push Press, to RDL keeps the bar in the same position as long as needed.

 

Importance of Exercises

 

Explosive movement should be prioritized in complexes. This does not however mean that all complexes have to start out with a full clean or snatch, it does mean that a clean pull, or full clean should precede front squats.

 

Explosive movement requires a greater level of technical proficiency young athletes need to be fresher to complete these movements.

 

Examples of Complexes

 

Clean Complex:
2 to 3 sets of 5 -7 reps of each of the following:
Clean pull from above knee, Clean High Pull from Mid Thigh, Hang clean from Mid thigh, Power Jerk, Front Squat, RDL, Bent Row

 

Snatch Complex:
2 to 3 sets of 5-7 reps of each of the following:
Snatch Pull from below knee, Snatch High Pull from Above Knee, Hang Snatch from Mid Thigh, , Snatch Jerk behind neck, Overhead Squat, Snatch Grip RDL.

 

These same complexes could be used with Dumbbells or even Kettlebells. Try implementing them before your young athletes next session.

 

Change Lives Today

 

Wil

 

olymic lifts young athletes

 

The Olympic lifts are the most explosive and dynamic demonstration of force in which an athlete can participate. It is important to have established, an effective, efficient, and safe way to teach athletes to Olympic lift. Athletes can be taught at any stage to lift well, with proper technique using the methods outlined in this course. Learn more on Olympic Lifting with young athletes here…

 

 

Concussion Prevention: A Pro-Active Approach

 

Concussion Prevention For Young Athletes

 

concussion for high school young athletes

 

By Jim Kielbaso

 

The concussion problem in sports has reached epidemic proportions. The NFL is spending millions on awareness and just instituted new practice rules to reduce the number of blows the players are exposed to during practices. Several high school athletic associations are also implementing new rules to deal with the issue. So far, everything has focused on how to deal with the athlete after the concussion, but there is now a movement to help educate athletes, parents and coaches about sports concussions and what can be done to prevent or avoid them. We’ll never be able to eliminate concussions from sports, but there are certainly things we can do to help reduce the forces our brain encounters.

 


There are really four basic components of concussion prevention:

 

    1. Protective equipment – In most sports, this means properly fit, quality helmets and mouth pieces. Unfortunately, no equipment or training currently known to us will eliminate concussions. “The best helmet on the market can still lead to injuries of the head including concussions,” said Scott Peck, a certified athletic trainer in Washington state. “To decrease concussions, athletes need to practice good technique in tackling and blocking by keeping their heads away from contact.”

 

    1. Technique – Some sports include more contact than others. Good coaches always teach athletes not to initiate contact with the head, but we still see a lot of young athletes using poor form when tackling or hitting.

 

    1. Awareness – It seems crazy, but there are still a lot of parents and coaches who simply do not understand how dangerous a concussion can be or that there is inherent risk involved in participating in most sports. This site was set up to help heighten awareness at the same time we discuss prevention options and proper treatment

 

  1. Training – This component is just now picking up momentum, but some coaches have known about this concept for years. This is also the least publicized aspect of concussion prevention for several reasons.

 

First, most people don’t know how to safely and effectively train the head and neck musculature. Second, it would be next to impossible to produce scientific evidence to show that training will help prevent concussions because you would have to use real human beings and expose them to potentially life-threatening blows. This would never pass any collegiate ethics committee, so the research probably cannot be done.

 

Still, the automotive industry has known for years that a stronger and stiffer neck significantly reduces the G-forces encountered by crash test dummies in crash research. It seems obvious that a stronger neck would be extremely helpful during a blow to the head, but most doctors aren’t yet ready to admit that. That could be because:

 

a. Doctors won’t make any money from the prevention side of this issue.
b. Doctors probably have no idea how to train.
c. Doctors typically refer to the scientific literature, but we already established that this evidence will probably never be published in any scientific journal.

 

We have to understand that no amount of training or equipment will eliminate all injuries, but that is not the point. Ten years ago, ACL prevention programs were virtually non-existent. Today, female athletes all over the country understand that proper training will limit their risk of sustaining an injury. Yet, ACL injury rates haven’t slowed down. It doesn’t mean that the training has not helped. And, going through a training program does not mean you will never hurt yourself. Training is meant to reduce risk or severity of an injury.

 

The same goes for properly training the neck & head to reduce the risk of concussions and serious neck injuries. The training does not eliminate the injuries, but it can help to lessen the risk or severity of neck and head injuries.

 

The leading researcher on neck training, Ph.D. candidate Ralph Cornwell, put it best when he said “If we know that it might help, and it’s not going to hurt, why wouldn’t you want to do this kind of training? People do ACL prevention programs all the time. This is like an ACL prevention program for your brain and neck. You can replace your ACL, but as far as I know, you only have one brain. It just makes sense to protect it.”

 

Research done by the NFL is now revealing that the repetitive sub-concussive blows – the hits that don’t knock you out, but just ring your bell a little – are the main culprit behind the long-term brain damage seen in many former athletes. Many of these athletes are now suing major sports organizations because they are mentally and physically disabled due to these blows. It seems that every brain has a certain number of hits it can take before long-term damage sets in. The more G-forces the brain encounter, the worse it gets.

 

Training can reduce the G-forces encountered on these sub-concussive blows, raising the bar on the number of hits it will take before the long-term damage sets in. This is some of the best news ever presented on this topic, because it gives us hope that we may be able to combat this problem.

 

Major sports organizations like USA Hockey and the NFL are recognizing that something must be done, so rules are changing quickly. Even Dr. Robert Cantu, who is considered one of the leading experts on the subject, has said that he thinks young athletes should wait until they are stronger and more mature before they engaging in intense contact/hitting sports. This means that the leading authority on concussions understands that being stronger will have a positive effect and is part of the concussion prevention equation.

 

With the knowledge that training can help prevent concussion and other injuries and, when done properly, can cause no harm, why would we NOT strengthen the muscles surrounding the head and neck?

 

 

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
 

 

Modifications to Training Programs For a Young Athlete on the Spot

 

Young Athlete Programming Modifications

 

By Wil Fleming
 

When I first started training I figured out quickly that the best coaches developed
programs ahead of time. They approached each session with a clear picture of their
goals for a young athlete and designed a program that would accomplish those goals.
 

As I began coaching I knew that is something that I wanted to do as well. I want to
be a coach with a clear vision and purpose, plan for everything, and get results with
my athletes.
 

In my “eye test” for other coaches, making training sessions up on the spot is one of
the things that leads me to believe that the trainer or coach is not going to make it.
 

Creating a workout from thin air leads me to believe that my athletes are going to
get better results and dominate their athletes.
 

Recently though I had an athlete with an unexpected limitation in their program that
took away her ability to do many of things that we normally do in training. After a
surprise surgical procedure she was unable to clean, snatch, squat, etc. (Literally
everything I like to have my athletes do).
 

Being that she is a track and field athlete, in the middle of her season, just taking
time off from training was not going to cut it. I literally had to come up with a
program on the spot.
 

I was able to do it, and have her produce the best performance of her career in the
weeks following because I came up with training sessions that fit in with the rest of
her program. Her daily training sessions were extremely modified but were in line
with the goal of this phase of the program.
 

How was I and the young athlete able to do this?

 

1) I had a clearly defined goal for training. In this scenario the young athlete was in the
middle of a strength phase for her track and field season. By having this goal laid
out I had a rep range and set range that each exercise could fall into. By having a
goal laid out I was able to select movements that could fall into this rep range.
 

2) I have a pre-determined programming system. In my program each day
follows the same general order of exercise.
 

1—Explosive
1A—Explosive assistance (Oly lift pull)
 

2A—Bilateral lower body (Push or Pull)
2B— Core (Anti-Extension)
 

3A—Upperbody (Push or Pull)
 

3B—Unilateral Lowerbody (Push or Pull)
3C— Core (Anti Rotation)

 

There is some variation to that set up based on the athlete and the time of year, but
in general that covers it all. In the case of my injured athlete replacing exercises was only really replacing movements. If a particular exercise was going to cause pain
then I knew that I needed to eliminate it, and replace it.
 

3) I have exercise progressions and regressions. When it comes to replacing
exercises this is key. All exercises that we program fall into one of the
categories above. Olympic lifts were difficult to perform for my athlete so I
was able to fill the explosive training slot with medicine ball throws. Bilateral
Quad dominant exercise was limited so we substituted heavy sled pushes.
 

By having a programming system, and with a little thinking on the fly this
athletes training did not miss a beat. After performing her training in a modified
fashion for 3 weeks, this young athlete is back to full strength and has equaled training bests in
lifts she was unable to perform for the past 3 weeks.
 

Without the 3 keys to programming above we would likely be starting behind
where her training was and would be playing catch up for the rest of her season.
 

 

Selecting the Right Starting Position for Olympic Lifts (Part 1)

 

Athletes Options For Olympic Lifts

 

By Wil Fleming

 

Coaches everywhere, and a great percentage of coaches at that, choose to use some type of Olympic lift in their training of athletes. Typically this Olympic lift is a power clean, starting from the floor. While this is appropriate for plenty of athletes, there are multiple variations in the starting position, that it can be hard to determine which is the right place to start.

 

So lets take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of some of the variations in start position.

 

Floor Start Position

 

This is the typical start position and the one used in weightlifting competitions. This position is the one that as coaches we see high school athletes using most often in their high school training program.

 

In this position the athlete starts with the bar at rest on the floor, and the bar should be close (~1-2 inches) from the shins. Athletes starting in this position should slowly, and under control lift the from the floor, ultimately passing the knees.

 

Pros: This position is the position from which the most weight has ever been cleaned or snatched, has been lifted. This is due to the momentum gained from the correct pull off the floor. Using the floor start position requires the athlete to increase hip range of motion due to the low starting position.

 

Cons: This position requires great hip mobility, and therefore, if an athlete is lacking in hip mobility they will typically gain this lower start position through an increase in lumbar flexion. Lumbar flexion with loads in front of the spine have been attributed to greater shear forces on the spine and a corresponding higher incidence of back injury. The typical floor start position also requires athletes to move the bar by the knees. This area of movement is one that requires great technique and for many athletes means that their technical problems occur in this area. More lifts are missed due to the first pull moving around the knee than in any other area of the lift. Poor lifts will have an S pull where the bar will move forward to travel pass the knee.

 

Block Start Position

 

The block start position is used often in the technical training of competition weightlifters.

 

The actual start position can be adjusted in height to meet the goals of the training session, but typically the athlete will start from a static stance somewhere above the knee.

 

Pros: Block starts are a great teaching tool. Coaches can specify the exact starting position that the athlete must achieve. This position is usually close to the 2nd pull (the rapid acceleration of the bar), and requires very little thought from the athlete once the bar is in place. Cueing the pull from a block position is fairly easy for the coach, typically aggressiveness and explosiveness are the only thing needed. The block start position is great for starting strength, no momentum is used and the stretch shortening cycle is eliminated. Starting strength is great quality to develop for nearly any athlete.

 

Cons: Situating the athlete in the correct start position can be hard for the uninitiated coach, differing starting heights require differing positions that are sometimes very dissimilar. Blocks can also be expensive to purchase or difficult to assemble, and therefore many weight rooms or facilities do not allow for the possibility of coaching athletes from a block starting position.

 

There are even more possibilities for Olympic lift start positions stay tuned for Part 2 to learn about 2 of my favorite start positions for young athletes.

 

 

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Learn More the Olympic Lift Instructor Course Today!

 

https://iyca.org/olympic-lifts/

 

 

The Truth About Youth Pitching Injuries and Young Athletes

 

Youth Pitching Injuries: The Real Reason Why There are so Many

Youth Pitching injuries in young athletes

 

By Mike Reinold

 

This article that you are about to read is really disappointing. Pitching injuries in young athletes continue to rise despite research and effort designed to reduce these injuries, this is a problem.

 

To quickly summarize what we have learned about youth pitching injuries, we know that approximately one third of youth baseball pitchers will experience shoulder or elbow pain during a season. We also know that youth pitching injuries increased sixfold in the early 2000?s with Dr. James Andrews at his center in Alabama. This number is probably even higher now.

 

After years of speculation regarding exactly why these injuries occur. There is only one factor that continuously correlates to these youth pitching injuries. I’ve discussed the Little League curveball debate in the past. It isn’t throwing a curveball, it isn’t pitching at an early age, and it isn’t long tossing.

 

The reason is simple:

 

Youth pitching injuries are due to overuse.

 

But I think we are being polite by saying “overuse.” I would imagine we can even say “abuse” or maybe even “neglect.” Let me explain why.

 

After years of research showing that high pitch counts, pitching too frequently, throwing for multiple teams, pitching in showcases, and pitching while fatigued are significant factors in the rise of your pitching injuries, Little League Baseball and USA Baseball did the right thing. They consulted with many experts in the field of throwing injuries, including James Andrews, Glenn Fleisig, and the experts at the American Sports Medicine Institute, to develop pitch count rules to protect our youth from this overuse. Kudos to them for stepping up and doing the right thing.

 

But here is the problem….

 

A recent study published in Sports Health surveyed 95 youth baseball coaches about their knowledge of the safety guidelines established by the USA Baseball Medical and Safety Advisory Committee. The results are disappointing to say the least.

 

:: Overall, coaches answered 43% of questions correctly

 

:: 27% of coaches admitted to not following the safety guidelines, however only 53% of coaches felt that other coaches in the league followed the safety guidelines

 

:: 19% of coaches reported pitching a player while having a sore or fatigued shoulder or elbow

 

I’m sorry to say this, but…

 

Not understanding the safety guidelines is irresponsible and intentionally not following them is abuse.

 

The cause of youth pitching injuries are definitely multifactoral, however, overuse has been shown to be the most influential. Sadly, overuse also seems to be the easiest to address.

 

So what can you do? It probably starts with education. Share this article to help spread that word that overuse needs to end and safety guidelines need to be followed.

 

You can go back and read my article on Little League pitch count rules. USA Baseball also has some guidelines. To summarize them, in addition to monitoring pitch counts, players should not pitch with pain, should limit their throws from other positions (especially catching), limit their participation in our leagues, limit their participation in showcases, and not progress to more demanding pitches until their bodies start to mature.

 

All coaches need to be aware of these recommendations. Injury prevention with young athletes begins with the understanding of how injuries occur and what the specific safety recommendations entail.

 

The next step is getting on a proper injury prevention program. I’ve discussed some of these topics in my article on preventing Little League youth pitching injuries and have shared with you my Little League injury prevention exercises that I prepared for MGH several years ago. I probably need to update these but it serves as a good basis to begin.

 

It really is a shame that all these youth pitching injuries are occurring, let’s do our best to spread this education and help reduce these Little League injuries in our young athletes as much as we can! Consideration Prior To Training With Olympic Lifts.