You’ve supported your young athlete from the beginning. You pay high fees for club teams, participate in the booster club and travel to faraway weekend tournaments. Anything to help him reach his full potential. Then disaster strikes. An injury takes him out of training and competition for an extended time. You wonder what you could have done differently.
Maybe a lot, it turns out.
James Bray, M.D., head team physician for the University of Texas Athletics Department, explains that one of the best things a parent can do for a young athlete is allow him to play a variety of sports. Playing a sport year-round causes overuse of certain tissues, making them prone to injury. On the other hand, an athlete who plays multiple sports utilizes muscles and joints with varying intensity and frequency. This leads to a more balanced and injury-resistant physique.
Michael Johnson Performance Center develops custom programs for each athlete.
Parents of young athletes are put in a difficult position. If we don’t have our athlete participating in “her” sport nonstop from the time she’s young, we risk her falling behind her peers. But if we don’t let her vary her activities, we put her at risk for chronic ongoing injuries.
Bray assures us that this shouldn’t be a dilemma. He explains that most young athletes who are excelling by around age 12 are doing so primarily because of earlier physical development. Their peers with strong athletic ability often end up surpassing them as physical development equals out.
The benefits of allowing your soccer player to participate in swim team or your football player to play tennis can be huge.
Performance training offers an opportunity for athletes to reap the benefits of varying their workouts during their offseason. The Michael Johnson Performance Center (MJP) in Craig Ranch takes the issue of overtraining seriously. When an athlete enters the MJP programs, the first step is a thorough evaluation to assess symmetry, stability and body composition. Bryan McCall, MJP’s director of performance, explains that there are some typical issues they see – female athletes have a tendency to let their knees curve inward, for example. Other issues are unique to individual athletes. These vulnerabilities can make an athlete prone to injury. MJP uses this information to create an individualized program for each athlete.
McCall states that, “Often we see a catastrophic injury and think it was a sudden event, but a lot of times it’s a repetitive problem that ended in tissue failure.”
The evaluation and programs at MJP are designed to prevent these overuse injuries that are often accelerated because of poor form.
McCall emphasizes that MJP is not a sports training facility. At MJP they are experts in the body, and not individual sports. When athletes return to training for their sport, they have strengthened their body and the way various parts work together. They have also gained an understanding of their own tendencies toward poor form and how to correct them.
Post Workout Recovery
Proper recovery after workouts is a critical piece of injury prevention. “We recover athletes almost as intensely as we work them out,” McCall says.
Michael Johnson Performance Center uses Sequential Pulse Technology which delivers dynamic compression to aid in recovery.
Dr. Bray recommends multiple modalities for workout recovery and treatment of minor injuries, including massage, physical therapy, trigger point release and acupuncture.
At Pain Free Dallas, in the Cooper Aerobic Center in McKinney, Gail Daugherty uses acupuncture to relieve stress and improve mental focus. Athletes as young as seven years old all the way up to professionals utilize her treatments.
Daugherty explains that acupuncture is painless. She customizes the treatments according to the needs of the athlete and their point in the training cycle. For high level athletes in the peak of training, the focus may be on relaxation, circulation and liver support. For young athletes, the focus is geared toward preventing problems later in life because of improper recovery in the younger years. (Football players with bad knees, for example.)
This 3,000-year-old treatment has research to back it up. Daugherty cites studies that show that tissues have increased oxygenation following acupuncture. In addition, there is an increase in white blood cell activity and eukephalin, one of the body’s natural pain relievers.
Daugherty emphasizes that an athlete must be comfortable with the acupuncturist to fully benefit from the treatment. It is important to visit with several practitioners to be sure you are confident about their approach and trust them with the process.
Most of us consider physical therapy a treatment to be utilized after injury or surgery. However, according to Shane Hernandez with Edge Therapy, physical therapists play a critical role in education as well as workout and injury recovery.
Hernandez explains that appropriate warming up is an example of the type of hands-on education physical therapists provide. Many athletes don’t understand that dynamic and functional stretching with an on-off pattern is best prior to a workout. However, static stretching will actually weaken the muscles before a workout. This is the type of information that a physical therapist should offer to athletes under his care. In addition to prescribed physical therapy for injury treatment, he will help an athlete understand how to prevent future injuries and maximize performance. He functions as a musculoskeletal resource for his patients.
“I want residents of McKinney to heal, rather than continually get injured,” Hernandez emphasizes. “I want to help them learn to be independent with the management of their own health and know how to take ownership of it.”
An Ounce of Prevention
Acupuncture relieves stress and improves mental focus.
Athletes today have opportunities to excel in their sport like no generation before. Technology, better understanding of training methodology and access to professional trainers and coaches make it so. But this blessing can also be a curse, because competition is steeper than ever before. The temptation to over-train and to train earlier to gain a competitive advantage is real.
If you are the parent of a young athlete, consider giving your child the opportunity to participate in a variety of sports throughout the year. Be sure that your competitive athlete has access to appropriate recovery and education about their training. In the end, these wise choices can help prevent injuries, which is the best advantage of all.
About the author: Amy Rogers, M.D., is a freelance writer living in McKinney. Contact her at amy@smartypantsmedia solutions.com.