Thursday, December 31, 2009

More on Strength Training for Youth

Parents and coaches continue to express concern about the suitability of strength training for children and adolescents despite the mounting evidence that it is both safe and effective. Let's address these concerns head on:

1.Lifting weights can damage the growth plates of youngsters. In fact, such damage has never been documented with youth strength training programs which are administered and supervised by qualified professionals (CSCS certification by the NSCA). Studies of these types of programs show a very low incidence of any type of injury (Strength and Conditioning Journal 1996:18:62-75). Most injuries occur when the program is unsupervised, equipment is used improperly, attempts are made to lift too much weight and technique is poor. Lifting weights is actually a big plus to the bones of youngsters. "There is good reason to believe that the more bone mass you accumulate during childhood, the higher your eventual peak bone mass and the lower your chances of suffering osteoporotic fractures in later life." Youngsters practicing gymnastics, weight-training and other demanding sports have been shown to accumulate more bone than their less active peers (Peak Performance, December 2004, pp. 11-12).

2.The forces caused by weight training are so great that they will cause injuries. This is a concern I hear from not only parents and coaches, but physicians as well. My first response is always, "Did you fail physics class?" The reality is that the forces placed on a child's musculoskeletal system while playing sports or even recreational physical activity (playground) far exceed that of any during strength training - even if the training were to include a maximal lift attempt (which it should not!).

Monday, December 28, 2009

More on Youth Training

If a child is ready for participation in organized sports, he or she is ready to undergo instruction in resistance training. As a result of modern sedentary lifestyles, young athletes are often not physically prepared for the rigors of sports. This lack of physical activity causes weakness, inflexibility, and poor motor skills - all factors causing poor performance and an increased risk of sports injury. Read what Louis Simmons, powerlifting champion and expert on strength training says,

"There has been much said about lifting and age. Everyone has their viewpoint. The United States, for the most part, will start young, 8-10 years old, in a particular sport such as football, baseball, basketball, boxing, and wrestling. It's almost always sports specific. That is, they participate in the sport with no prior general physical preparedness (GPP).
In the old Soviet countries, there were sport institutes that prepared the youth age 12 and above for sports but not by playing a certain sport, but by a well-prepared process of GPP. This is general mobility, flexibility, dexterity, endurance, hand/eye coordination, balance, and strength. For example, pushups, pull-ups, rope climbing, medicine ball work, kettle bell work, and some running and short sprints are done. They produced the model athlete for their sports system. Children were chosen for the sport that suited their physical, mental, and emotional qualities. Neither the child nor the parents were able to pick the sport."

"...the incidence of overuse injuries sustained by young athletes could be reduced by 50% if more emphasis was placed on the development of fundamental fitness abilities before sports participation."
Faigenbaum, A., Schram, J. Can Resistance Training Reduce Injuries in Youth Sports? Strength and Conditioning Journal 26(3) p18. 2004.

"Approximately one-third of young athletes participating in organized sports in the United States sustain injuries requiring medical attention. Incidence of medical treatment for sports injuries peaks between the ages of 5 and 14 years and progressively decreases thereafter." Gamble, P. Approaching Physical Preparation for Youth Team-Sports Players. Strength and Conditioning Journal 30(1) p30. 2008.

The main premise for youth training is that there is no point in trying to impose sports specific training on flawed fundamental movement patterns. Teaching basic movement mechanics for running stopping, changing direction, jumping, and landing must form the basis of training for all young athletes.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Do You Regularly Take Anti-inflammatory medications before your workouts?

Read on...

A study published in the August 2009 issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine states,

"the prolonged prophylactic use of NSAIDs [anti-inflammatory medication like Advil (ibuprofen) and Aleve (naproxen)] by athletes is unsafe."

"there is no clilnical evidence to suggest that regular use of NSAIDs reduces injury risk or improves function in the typical athlete."

"a paradoxical consequence of the prophylactic use of NSAIDs by athletes is that these agents can compromise the musculoskeletal system. NSAIDs taken before activity may mask pain and thus cause athletes to inadvertently allow pathology to progress."

"Athlese who regularly take NSAIDs before exercise may have reduced tissue adaptations to prevailing loads potentially predisposing them to future injury."

NSAID use delays fracture healing and also delays "healing of acute ligament, muscle and tendon injuries." They prevent bones, muscles, tendon and ligaments from thickening and becoming stronger.

Athletes taking NSAIDs during competition are at increased risk for bleeding into their kidneys, and for intestinal bacteria to enter their bloodstreams.

Warden, S. Prophylactic misuse and recommended use on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs by athletes, August 2009 (Vol 43, No 8) British Journal of Sports Medicine, pp. 548-549.



Monday, December 21, 2009

Youth Strength Training Guidelines

"In general, if a child is ready for participation in sport activities (generally age 7 or 8 years), then he or she is ready for some type of resistance training."

"Basic education on weight room etiquette, proper exercise technique, individual goals, and realistic outcomes should be part of youth resistance training programs." "This is particularly important for untrained children who often overestimate their physical abilities (184) and who may not be aware of the inherent risks associated with resistance training exercise equipment."

"Although all training sessions should be supervised by a qualified adult (or several adults depending on class size), additional supervision may be needed during the first few weeks of the resistance training program when participants are learning proper exercise technique and training procedures."

"All youth resistance training programs should include instruction on proper lifting techniques, safety procedures, and specific methods of progression. Because the act of resistance training itself does not ensure that optimal gains in strength and power will be realized, the ideal approach is to incorporate resistance training into a progressive conditioning program in which the volume and intensity of training change throughout the year."

"children and adolescents must not be treated as miniature adults, nor should adult exercise guidelines and training philosophies be imposed on youth."


Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Hazards of Overscheduling Young Athletes

A big problem we see is that young athletes play in so many leagues that they have "no time" for sports performance training. The NCAA Sports Medicine Handbook states, "The student-athlete should be protected from premature exposure to the full rigors of sport. Pre-conditioning should provide the student- athlete with optimal readiness by the first practice."

Playing more sports does not equal a better athlete. Performing the proper strength and conditioning program in the pre-season, during the season, and in the post-season will improve performance dramatically and prevent injury. The National Strength and Conditioning Journal states, "Studies show that the incidence of overuse injuries sustained by young athletes could be reduced by 50% if more emphasis was placed on the development of fundamental fitness abilities before sports participation."

So many injuries are the result of the combination of poor technique and overtraining. We have seen too many young athletes (ages 8-18) come to our facility with a long list of musculo-skeletal injuries like stress fractures, acute and chronic muscle strains (hamstrings, calves, etc.), and ligament sprains (knees, ankles, etc.). This is NOT NORMAL! Most of these injuries start with an acute episode followed by chronic pain and loss of motion. They occur because the athlete is not properly balanced due to years of poor technique.

A good analogy for the importance of proper athletic technique is having your tires properly balanced on your car. Properly balanced tires allow the car to be driven faster, prevent uneven tire wear, permit the slowest rate of tread wear possible, and provide the greatest protection against blowout. The same goes for proper exercise technique and the human body, especially the musculo-skeletal system (bones, joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons).
The next blog will address a proper youth strength and conditioning program.
NCAA Sports Medicine Handbook 2009-2010, p. 6

Faigenbaum, A., Schram, J. Can Resistance Training Reduce Injuries in Youth Sports? Strength and Conditioning Journal 26(3) p18. 2004.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Welcome to Prevent Sports Injuries

My passion is preventing sports injuries. I see too many young athletes with injuries that should never have occurred in the first place. Other than direct trauma, most of these injuries are due to two things: too much time playing the sport and a lack of general physical preparation.

When I played baseball in high school we played a 16 game season. That's it! No extra league games, extra practices, and personal baseball coach. Baseball was played in the springtime. Now, all sports are year round. WHEN IS THE OFFSEASON? Professional athletes, who are genetically gifted and physically prepared, have an off season, why don't kids have one?

Many experts claim the problem is that kids play the same sport and don't get variety. Well, going from soccer, to basketball, to lacrosse won't be much help if there is no break in the action. Rest and recovery are essential to a young body.

PARENTS - listen up! If you have a teenager (or younger) with joint and/or muscle pain - this is not normal.

My next post will discuss physical preparation for the young athlete.