How To Help Your Sporty Kids Avoid Injury
Having kids that love sport or exercising can make life a lot easier when it comes to getting them moving. However that doesn't mean to say you shouldn't have concerns. I loved sport as a kid, and did a few hours every day - squash, hockey, riding, running etc. In fact it was a running joke that I never wore my school uniform at school - just my sports kit. However, if I have known then what I know now, I would have gone about it all a little differently.
Don't specialise too early
Most kids have a favourite sport, and it is normally the one they are best at. However, try and encourage them to take part in other sports and physical activities. Specialising too early means you are using the same muscles most of the time. This can lead to over-use injuries, but by supplementing training with other sports means you get to develop different skills which can improve performance in a favourite sport
Right level for their age & maturity
Our kids are growing all the time, with growth forming an 'S' shaped curve - quicker earlier on, then another peak around puberty. As they grow, so do their joint, muscles, organs etc. However it is important to make sure their training is at the right level for their body. During slower periods of growth, it is a great time to focus on skills. However when they are going through a growth spurt, their brain and nervous system will take time to adjust to the changes and you may find that that your child goes through a stage of being a little clumsy! Don't worry, they'll soon be back to normal. As they grow, their hormones also change which is vital to their development. Before puberty is a great time to focus on skills, body awareness, mobility, fitness etc. However they will struggle to get big strength gains due to low levels of testosterone in their bodies. So a key note to take away is to think about what capabilities and limitations are imposed on their bodies through growth and maturity and adjust training accordingly
Over doing it
If your kids are sports mad, you will probably struggle to get them to stop and relax. However relaxation and time out is vital to all athletes, especially developing athletes. Overtraining increases their risk of injury and illness, which could affect their performance long term. The best idea you can suggest to them is to keep a training diary which they fill out every day. Now it doesn't need to be an essay they just need to include:
- Resting HR at waking - good way of pre-noting any illnesses as a rise in HR suggests illness/tiredness/overdoing it
- How they feel on waking - if exhausted then they need an easy day, but if feeling great they know they can train away
- Any muscles soreness - very very sore and they need to take it easy. Slight soreness is reduced with some gentle exercise
- What training they have done - they can keep a note of how much and it will also help them identify improvements
- General nutrition - have they eaten well, have they drunk enough etc, as this encourage good habits
Sell the idea to them by explaining that it is what all athletes should do, and by understanding how their body is responding, they will understand what their body is capable of
It is never too early to seek specialist advice. I'm not talking about coaches, but Sports Medicine Experts such as sports physios, sport psychologists, nutritionists etc. If your child is serious about their sport, they will get the best advice from a specialist. Sports physios will help advise correctly on injuries and what they can and can't do; sport psychologists can help teach your child to deal with competition nerves; sports nutritionists can make sure your child is getting enough of the right fuel and youth strength and conditioning coaches will help balance out your child's muscles, improve performance and help prevent injury.
Trainers have come on leaps and bounds. Your child's feet are vital to their movement and sporting performance, so supporting them in the right way is vital. Investing in correctly fitting trainers can help reduce knee, ankle, hip and back pain and injuries, as the compressive forces are channelled the right way. I use Great Fit in Royston as Alice is incredibly knowledgeable and they use the podiatry fitting technique which is more accurate and research based than other methods.
By thinking of your child as a mini elite athlete - fine-tuning their needs to suit them best - you will help them reduce injury and illness, and improve their sporting performance as well as their enjoyment!!