A lot had been made over the past number of years of the alarming rate of injuries to our youth athletes. Some can be attributed to overuse with single-sport athletes and others may point to increases training or the fact that athletes are bigger, stronger and faster. While I agree with all of those, they aren’t the only things causing the influx of injuries.
Two causes of concern when it comes to injury rate are strength (or lack of) and proper mechanics.
The first one is strength. Above I say “lack of” in brackets. That’s because it is the lack of strength that causes a lot of these injuries. I’ll give you an example. I see a number of young soccer players who perform squats with knees that cave in. This knee valgus is usually caused from a lack of strength within the outer portion of the hip and thigh. Athletes who do not have the strength to perform a squat without their knees caving in are at a much higher risk of ACL injuries. Now in soccer, where there are a number of scenarios throughout the game where the knee joint is placed in a vulnerable position and adequate strength can mean the difference of whether the athlete stays on the field or leaves injured.
The second issue of concern is the proper mechanics. Again, I will use soccer as an example. When changing direction, you should have the foot placed outside the base of support in order to gain greater body control and able yourself to move quickly in the desired direction.
The fact that kids just don’t play anymore is a big factor of strength. Regular play, outside with friends can lead to a huge increase in strength and speed. Jumping, crawling, pulling, pushing and many more things can be solved with physical activity. And the correct training also plays a big role. Skill development always has its place in sports, but an athlete has to be strong enough to stay injury-free in order to use those skills.
Proper mechanics can be achieved through appropriate coaching and training. The athlete needs to know the correct angles the leg should be in when changing direction. The athlete should know what the base of supports is before having the foot outside the base of support. They say practice makes perfect. But really, perfect practice makes perfect. Doing a movement pattern over and over again the wrong way is just asking for trouble.
Hopefully, we will soon begin to see fewer injuries and more players doing what they do best….playing the game!!
Driving Force Sports Performance