Top 3 Ways to Prevent Injury in Youth Athletes

“Why do youth athletes need recovery?” you may ask yourself while your kid is still bouncing off the wall after practices, swim lessons, play dates and no naps. The demanding schedule of today’s youth athlete is higher than ever. Many athletes are competing year round whether in different sports or through several different teams. Almost half of all injuries sustained in youth athletics are overuse injuries.

Additionally, youth sports has the perception that “more is better” and youth athletes recover more quickly from hard workouts than adults; however, because children and adolescents are still growing and developing, they actually require more time than adults for recovery between high volume and high intensity training sessions. Youth and high school athletes need to understand 2 things about recovery. 

  1. Recovery allows the body to perform to standard without breaking down or becoming injured.

  2. Recovery allows the body to improve, build muscle, and strengthen. 

EliteFTS columnist and Rehabilitation Specialist Dr. Tyrel Detweiler explains the risks this way:

“The reality is that most injuries occur over time from wear and tear that compounds due to either a lack of recovery or improper movement patterns. When wear occurs on the muscles, soft tissues, or joints, fatigued. These tissues are weakened, fatigued, and sustain micro-trauma. Over time, this micro-trauma and fatigue builds. If recovery or proper movement is left unchecked, this damage continues to build until eventually the body can no longer sustain against the forces working against it in practice and workouts. When this threshold is reached, an injury occurs — but this injury could have been avoided had the athlete been recovering better.”

While there is no way to totally prevent all injuries, many injuries are preventable with foresight, education and preemptive measures. Below we will talk about those 3 strategies and how you can act on them today.

  1. Foresight A trained professional can watch an athlete walk, run, squat, press or crawl and assess suboptimal movement patterns that can lead to an injury. Through assessments like the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), a professional can offer corrective movements to strengthen, mobilize and therefore improve the quality of the movement. Sergent Wellness offers FMS as a part of the assessment, diagnosis and check-up process. 

  2. Education By empowering youth athletes to connect to their bodies, we give them the tools to know what feels right, what feels wrong and the differences between pain, soreness and discomfort. The best way to educate young athletes about their bodies is to get them moving in dynamic ways. Many of us grew up playing outside with a neighborhood gaggle of kids climbing trees, jumping fences, swimming, and running. Childhood has changed in many ways and athletes today didn’t have the same opportunity to develop their body awareness through engagement with the world around them. By facilitating thoughtful movement in dynamic environments, we can give them the chance to develop what came naturally to many of us through our youth. Sergent Wellness offers small group and youth training for all ages. 

  3. Preemptive Measures By addressing weaknesses BEFORE an injury occurs, we give youth athletes the gift of longevity. Many injuries suffered by youth athletes are due to overuse, repetitive patterns and increase in volume or intensity without proper preparation. By strengthening muscles, joints and tendons outside of sport (games and practices) in a safe, controlled environment, we can reduce the occurrence of injuries and increase the resilience of the young athlete’s body. 

As youth athletes, the present time is the perfect time to engage in healthy habits. Habits that promote recovery, longevity, body awareness and sustained health. Sleep, proper nutrition, and working with professionals who support their long-term development are the best ways parents can mitigate the damage done by the current landscape of youth athletics.

 At Sergent Wellness, we offer…. 

  • 1:1 Training for higher-risk athletes: Scoliosis, previous injury, rehab and repair

  • 1:1 Youth Training ages 10-18

  • Preseason Prep training program

  • Small group training for teams

  • Remote coaching and programs

  • Technique training for weightlifting, powerlifting and more

  • Physical therapy 

  • Memberships for maintenance and treatment for ongoing or preventative care that include training and physical therapy

Further reading

  1. DiFiori JP, Benjamin HJ, Brenner JS, et al Overuse injuries and burnout in youth sports: a position statement from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine British Journal of Sports Medicine 2014;48:287-288.