There are several injury prevention strategies out there for athletes today, but these are the tried and true tips for decreasing your or your child’s likelihood of injury while participating in athletics.
During the pre-season and in-season a regular strength and conditioning program should be performed. Often this may be done with the team, but it can also be done at any strength and conditioning facility or gym. The pre-season is when injury prevention should be the main goal of your program. A good injury prevention program will not only help you prevent injuries, but get you ready to compete. Of course, this means if you don’t know what you are doing, get professional guidance, so as you strengthen you don’t get injured. These programs should be continued and adapted in-season. Your in-season program should focus on maintaining a balance between the specific activities you need to perform in your sport and those you need to counterbalance those specific and often repetitive movements.
Avoid Sport Specialization
The notion that early sport specialization will help you become a better athlete in the long run is a very misleading idea. Rather, what studies are beginning to show is that sport specialization at a young age may lead to a high likelihood of injuries, such as ACL tears, concussions, and Tommy-John’s. Also, it leads to a higher risk of overuse injuries and burnout.
This is probably the single most important thing any athlete needs, particularly one who is still physically developing and growing like the youth athlete. Every week should have at least 1 full day of rest. There’s no magic day of the week that should be taken off, but one day every week needs to focus on rest from all organized athletics and competitions.
In-Season: One Team at a Time
Another important thing to remember in-season is to participate on only one team. It’s quite tempting for clubs to meet up and stay fresh during the high school season, but all this really does is put the athlete at risk of fatigue and injury. Think about it, the more you do, the more chance you have to get hurt.
Off-Season & Post-Season
Guess what…this one’s really about rest too. But what’s the difference between the off-season and post-season? Off season is just that…it’s OFF. That means that no organized competitive activity should be performed during this timeframe. The total amount of time an athlete should take off from competing each year is 3 months. Yep, you read that correctly. Three months! Now, you’ll be happy to know that this doesn’t have to happen right in a row. This is where the post-season comes into play. Post-season rest occurs directly after the last competition for an organized team. It needs to happen for at least 1 FULL month or more. So, for example, if you’re an athlete that plays multiple sports like football and baseball, once football is done at least 1 full month of rest should occur before competing in baseball. Then after baseball, at least one full month of rest should occur before starting football. Guess what, that is already at least 2 months of rest for the year. Adding another month or splitting it up between those periods of rest you’ve already taken isn’t that hard to do. The main point is to get at least 3 months a year off from organized activity for the body to adequately rest and recover.
Piggybacking off the above points on rest…is the amount of time an athlete spends training every week. The amount of time an athlete, especially a youth athlete, spends per week playing an organized sport should be less than that child’s age. For example, if I am ten years old. I should only be participating in organized sports for 9 or less hours per week. Additionally, the amount of time a youth athlete spends per week working out in an organized fashion, whether that’s sports team practices, training in a gym, or competing, should total less than 16 hours per week!
In the end, giving your body the proper time for rest, recovery, and strengthening is vital to avoid injury. Find professionals that can help you along your athletic journey and be there is injury does occur. Also, check out our post on the Keys To Athletic Enhancement for more information on this topic.
1. Jayanthi NA, Dugas LR. Injury Prevention in Youth Athletes. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 2017.