Injury Proofing Young Athletes

One of the primary functions of the Strength and Conditioning coach is to build an armour on our trainees. By identifying, improving, and sometimes eliminating faulty movements that predispose athletes to injury we can have a lifelong impact on their athleticism and overall health.

Sport has inherent risks, we will never eliminate injury altogether just ask the guy who has broken his scaphoid, collarbone, 2 ribs, strained both achilles, MCL, LCL, torn an ACL, and partially torn his rotator cuff all in the pursuit of sport. But many of the common postural and movement faults of modern life amplify the risk for athletes who demand a lot of their bodies.

For example: The hunched shoulders and head forward mechanics of the cell phone age limits nerve supply and blood flow to and from the brain, inter-vertebral discs get squashed, nerves get impinged, lung capacity is decreased, and the rotator cuff tries to perform miracles from a weak imbalanced shoulder position.

Why put yourself in harms way if you can easily avoid it? Please help young athletes understand that by simply being tall through their head, neck, and shoulders in life and most definitely in training they avoid the myriad of injuries, imbalances and weakness described above.

It is truly frustrating how many times I have seen this simple fix be ignored in fact scoffed at until the pinched nerve or torn rotator cuff sidelines athletes, sometimes permanently.

Harry Hunchback: “How do I rehab this wing Ed, nationals are in 2 weeks?”

“Well Harry do you remember when you argued that sometimes you are hunched in your sport so you should lift weights that way too? That you feel silly walking around all upright? You must understand that the best rehab is to never get the injury in the first place, as it can take up to a year for tissue to fully remodel?…” I am not making this up, I have had 3 conversations just like this in the last couple years. One athlete never made it to Nationals and the other 2 did not perform to expectations and still struggle with issues related directly to their head, neck, and shoulder posture. Be tall and proud like Ed I always say.

 

Another relatively correctable movement habit that predisposes athletes to injury is walking with the toes pointing out to the side. Maybe you sprained your ankle or toe and turning the foot out takes away the pain. Maybe people you model movements after have their toes pointing out as well. Whatever the reason this foot position short circuits the natural ‘toe, foot, ankle, knee, hip’ shock absorption and force production system. It makes the hip flexors the prime mover of the whole leg, places strain on the inside of the knee, puts the ACL at risk, flattens the arch of the foot and causes abnormal bone growth on the big toe joint (bunions). Please ensure both feet are pointing the direction you’re heading, at the most allow a 10 degree out-turn. This is true in training as well; performing your squats, lunges, and other lower body moves with toes out amplifies the restrictions noted above and builds strength on that dysfunction. Don’t do it.

Laying it all on the line on the field of sport is an honourable pursuit but knowledge is power in terms of injury prevention, perhaps you won’t have to get carried off that field!

 

Ed Stiles BPE, Certified Exercise Physiologist is a member of the Alberta Sport Development Centre’s Performance Enhancement Team and is the Fitness Coordinator at the Family Leisure Centre he can be reached via e-mail at asdc@mhc.ab.ca, or at ed1sti@medicinehat.ca

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