Our nephew walked out of the doctor’s office with a surgery scheduled for the following week. His elbow had been hurting for some time and upon further review from the doctor, it was decided that he needed Tommy John Surgery (which is a surgical graft procedure in which the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body.) Surgery is scary at any age and at 15 it had us all concerned. Thankfully he breezed through the surgery, the rehab and is now playing again. Whew!
But I found it interesting, when we talked to our nephew, he named a handful of other players who had already had the surgery or were scheduled to have it.
So What Is A Repetitive-Use Injury? How Can It Be Minimized?
Overuse injures, unlike acute injuries, don’t show themselves right away and can develop as a result of chronic strain or after a poorly healed previous injury. Often after an athlete is injured there is pressure (mostly by the player themselves) to resume practicing before it has completely healed. (I’ve been there before…no, really Coach I can play).
Repetitive-use injuries show up in the shoulders and elbows of baseball players, the gymnast’s wrists and the runner’s knee to name a few. The bones are still growing in young to preteen children and make them more vulnerable to damage from repeated movements. Some experts advise that a child avoid specialization in one sport until after they are at least 14 years old and some argue that they need to continue playing multiple sports even through high school!
Experts do agree that young athletes need to follow a few simple guidelines to prevent overuse injures:
- Young athletes need whole-body conditioning and need to engage in a variety of athletic activities.
- Recover is critical for athletes, so no more than five days per week of sport-specific training is recommended. This allows the body to recover and to heal.
- Gentle warm-ups and stretching for the WHOLE- BODY is crucial BEFORE and AFTER workouts.
- Allow for down-time for the athlete to reboot between seasons!
Prevention is ALWAYS the best defense!
One of the most important tools that you, as their parent, have in your arsenal is your common-sense. Of course we want our athlete to have crazy, awesome success, but we can’t let them push too far when it comes to their growing bodies. And of course, without a shadow of a doubt, their nutrition comes into play in this area too!
If your athlete is not nourishing their growing body with all of the right foods, they are leaving themselves vulnerable to injury and illness. On the other hand, if they are protecting themselves with proper nutrition, they have a much better chance to stay healthy all season long!