Not that long ago, the preseason, in season and off-season were clearly defined periods in youth sports. But with the surge of travel teams and highly competitive gyms, the sports season’s seasons, have been blurred. More and more, youth sport programs are transitioning into year-round commitments.
But with yearlong play comes an increased susceptibility to injury. Rather than cross your fingers and hope your child or player eludes injury, follow these 7 simple tips to help keep them off of the disabled list.
If you can manage to carve out 6 to 8 weeks before the start of the main portion of your practices, this would be time well spent on posture, flexibility, and core strengthening. Proper preseason conditioning will reduce the likelihood of injuries from overuse occurring during the main portion of the season.
1. Posture and flexibility are extremely important to reduce the likelihood of injuries even in the young athlete. Daily self-massage is highly recommended using foam rollers, “the Stick”, and other massage devices to improve joint range of motion and posture.
2. “Core strengthening” refers to training of the large muscles around the hip, pelvis and shoulder blades. These large muscle groups are critically important in throwing sports. If you ever want an example of just how important they are try throwing a baseball or softball while seated in a chair. That’s how important your legs are in the throwing motion.
3. Most young athletes will require proper supervision for a core-strengthening program, but will not require weights to perform the exercises. In fact bodyweight exercises can be ideal for the young athlete. A qualified strength trainer can make a big difference and I’ve written a post titled “Finding a Class or Personal Trainer for Youth Strength Training” in my Sideline Sports Doc blog.
During the season the focus should be on maintaining fitness, and recovering properly from practices and games. It is generally not a good idea to perform heavy load strengthening exercises during the season as this can lead to a higher rate of injury.
4. Proper nutrition and hydration are important even in the youngest athletes.
5. Remember to continue to perform flexibility exercises such as using daily self -massage.
6. The coach should take the players through a proper dynamic warm-up prior to the start of any training session. For example for baseball and softball players this should include drills that replicate the demands of the sport: arm circles, trunk rotations, lunges, squats, and other rhythmic exercises.
7. Aerobic exercises such as jogging for distance are of little use in baseball and softball and can sometimes increase the likelihood of injury and poor performance. Excessive running mileage leads to overuse injuries which baseball and softball players are already prone to.
And if an injury occurs during the season…
Some injuries are inevitable especially in contact and collision sports. If an injury does happen, the best thing you can do for your child is to get proper diagnosis and treatment early on. Sometimes taking a few days off from training or missing a game or two will salvage the rest of the season. I’ve written an article in Weplay, which you can access here, that contains much more detail on this subject.