Varying the type and intensity of exercise your child performs can develop them into a more well rounded athlete by strengthening different areas of the body and helping them build resilience through different patterns of movement. For example, a soccer player may develop very good lower body strength and coordination while a baseball player might develop Upper body and core strength. One of the funnest and easiest ways to accomplish this is to play multiple sports across multiple seasons. If they have a favorite sport that they want to play year round, consider taking one season a year off to try a new sport!
Teach athletes to communicate their pain:
When children are in pain, especially for the first time, it can be difficult for them to tell their parent or coach exactly what is wrong and therefore injuries and potentially injurious areas can go unnoticed until a more severe injury happens. Teaching a child how to describe their pain and quantify it before the pain starts can help coaches and parents address the issue before it becomes an injury. Talk to your child about different types of pain like; “Acute vs Chronic?, Does it go away or has it been hurting for a long time?, Is it sharp or dull?,” Teach them about the 0-10 pain scale and give examples of each to help them understand.
An absolute necessity before training or competing in a sport is to warm up the whole body with an emphasis on the movements that they will be doing on the field. This can help children identify pain associated with movement and it will prepare the body to move through its entire range of motion and prevent muscle strains or tears that can occur when muscles are too tight. Make sure your athletes are warming up for at least 10 minutes before they begin training and incorporating a variety of exercises like calisthenics, jumping jacks, lunges, high knees, jogging and any other movements they might encounter on the field.
Rest and Recovery:
Kids can be tough, competitive, and sometimes seem like they have unlimited energy but it’s important to ensure that they are getting adequate sleep and recovery time before training or playing again. Giving young athletes enough time to recover properly before a game will allow them to perform their best and reduce the risk of injury. A study done in 2014 on athletes 12-18 yrs old showed an association between sleep deprivation and injury risk; “Athletes who slept on average <8 hrs nightly were 1.7 times more likely to have had an injury compared to those who got > 8 hrs” (J Pediatr Orthop. 2014 Mar;34(2):129-33. doi: 10.1097/BPO.0000000000000151. )
Teach youth about safe practices in their respective sport:
For every sport, especially contact sports, there are special considerations that coaches, parents, and players should all be aware of in order to keep everyone safe. For example, football players are taught to avoid head to head contact to prevent concussions, soccer players are taught to avoid overextending to get to a ball because sacrificing stability, however briefly, can throw a player off balance and result in knee or ankle injuries. Take the time to learn about unsafe practices and if something looks unsafe on the field, address it to the coach and/or players.
As always, we hope this helps! If you have any questions or if you would like to read about certain topics, feel free to send us an email at TeamSP@SportsPerformancePT.com.
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