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3 Things Every Young Athlete Should Do

March 5, 2018
3 Things Every Young Athlete Should Do

One of the reasons I went into Pediatrics and Sports Medicine was my desire to treat young athletes.

Being able to impact how kids can ultimately live their lives as an athlete is powerful. It’s about teaching kids to train the right way early in their sports career so they perform better and remain active throughout their lives with a decreased risk of injury at any level of competition.

Society and Sports

I always start the conversation with parents and my patients by acknowledging that society has put them in a tough situation. You know, society has set this norm that you “HAVE” to do a sport year-round or you are not going to make the high school team. You “HAVE” to commit to a single sport early to really master those skills. It’s just an unrealistic expectation! The truth is there are very few, if any, professional athletes who do their sport year-round, and many of the highest skilled athletes participated in multiple other sports before focusing on one. Too much of a good thing is just not good.

Related: PT for Concussions

Steps to Healthy Training

  1. Core Strength

A lot of what kids don’t know how to do anymore is utilize their core musculature. The center of their body being the center of all movement needs to be strong. It’s easy to learn incorrect technique or compensation patterns that go around their core. Once that happens then they easily end up injuring their hips, their knees, their shoulders or other body part.  As the name implies, your “core” really is the key to all correct body movement.

  1. Rest and Recovery

Volume is also a big issue I am seeing with young athletes. Sometimes they are just doing so much that their core can’t keep up, and they end up getting injured. Ideally, they need to be doing one sport at a time and various sports through the year. Giving their body a chance to rest and recover from a lot of repetition is key. So, if they do a racquet sport or a throwing sport for one season they might want to do a pure running sport for the next season or swim or bike where there is less impact and pounding.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a sports recommendation that kids have 2 days a week where they do not do an organized sport and 2 months a year (it can be broken up through the year) where they are not doing an organized sport. Also, sports specialization really shouldn’t come until their junior or sophomore year at the earliest. Up until then, the focus should be on varied sports to allow the body to learn a full array of movement patterns and recover the silent injuries that occur with activity.

  1. Beauty Rest

The other thing that ties in a lot to my practice is sleep. Sleep is when you reset and recover.  Hormones rebalance allowing for weight control. Learning new plays, learning new moves are solidified. It’s also when you recover from injuries and normal growth occurs. Inadequate sleep really effects sports performance. It’s important for a young athlete (middle and high school) to get 8.5-9 hours of sleep a night.

Address the Problems

Help your child achieve their goals and set this foundation at an early age. If you have a child that is starting to complain of aches and pains when they play their sport, don’t wait, come see me. Joints should not hurt in a young athlete, and muscle pain should improve with conditioning in a short period of time. Let’s address the issue and stop the pain before it gets worse.

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Lucien Ouelette, MD

By Dr. Lucien Ouellette

OA Centers for Orthopaedics – Saco, Maine

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