Article written by Robbie Bolton, P.T.
Over the years of working with young athletes, specifically baseball players, there has been one common denominator: Overuse syndromes. From Tendonitis, tendinosis, stress reactions/fractures, etc. I constantly treat athletes from the age of 10-14 that are plagued with them.
Why is that?
In today’s youth sports there is a push for specialization of sport- the idea that the only way to get better at a sport is to compete at a high level of competition(in that sport) for multiple seasons during a year. However, that kind of structural stress on a developing athlete can be detrimental. To participate in MULTIPLE, seasonal sports, year-round has proven to lower risk of injury. To compete in the same sport, perform the same motions, to stress the same tissue, repetitively is where kids get in trouble.
To build on that epidemic, it is normal for us to take our best athletes at their respective age and put them on an elite team. They then compete at the highest level and demand the most out of their bodies, often playing multiple positions on the field. Are we trying to win the 14u travel ball tournament, or are we trying to develop the best athlete?
Introducing Little League Elbow, Little League Shoulder, Avulsion fractures…
Athletes between the ages of 10-14 start developing better eye hand coordination, increase their speed, and improve their skill at their position. However, their muscles have not caught up to the demand they place on their body day in and day out. Most of these issues start to fade away as they get into high school as they begin their structured strength and conditioning program. In the meantime, they consistently put more load on their structure( big muscle groups) than their dynamic stabilizers can handle, and tissue begins to fail.
So this leads to the question….What are some ways to prevent this?
- First and foremost, play multiple sports during the year to build tolerance to multiple types of stress.
- Perform light cardio before practice including dynamic stretching prior to dynamic activities such as practices/games. Be sure to include rotational movements of the hips and spine during preparations.
- Sign up for group conditioning classes that focus on speed training, agility work, calisthenics training to prepare their system for the demands they routinely place on their bodies
- Use foam rolling to help decrease muscle guarding/shortening, increase circulation to overworked tissue.
- Try and educate your child on the difference between muscle pain/soreness and orthopedic pain, chemical pain. If pain is felt during an activity, please tell an adult.
- See a licensed Physical Therapist to perform a Functional Movement Screen for prevention.
About the Author:
Robbie Bolton is a licensed physical therapist, and dry needle expert. Robbie has built a great reputation amongst professional athletes in Louisiana and beyond, often working with MLB, NFL, and NBA players. Robbie has recently started his own PT Clinic in Baton Rouge called Evolve Physical Therapy and Sport Training, after starting Traction Elite Physical Therapy. He has been my personal physical therapist and well-being coach for the past six years, and has rehabbed every one of my major injuries throughout my career.