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Is Sports Specialization Dangerous for Youth Athletes?

There comes a point in every youth athlete’s life when it’s time to choose “your sport”. Whether they’re a recreational team player, or a state champion, life gets pretty busy juggling multiple sports and activities. But when is that time, and are there dangers to specializing too early or too late? Can we become a good athlete, but prevent injuries (thus avoiding physical therapy!) and burnout at the same time?

There are a few guidelines we can follow in order to help draw a line when too much is too much. Guidelines are in place in order to prevent acute and overuse injuries in children and adolescents. While younger athletes can often “bounce back” fast, more serious injuries can ruin a season before it even starts. Here’s a few things to consider when signing your athlete up for sports:

1. Avoid over-specialization by signing up for multiple sports in a year. Just like with any activity, repeating the same stressors over and over can make you more susceptible to injury. Stay active and stay involved by choosing multiple sports.
2. “Hours per age” rule. Your child should not train more hours of one sport per week than their numerical age. (Example: a 14 year old swimmer should swim less than 14 hours per week)
3. Limit practice to 1.5 hours per day, and competition to 3 hours per week.
4. Have 1-2 rest days from sport practice/competition per week.
5. Young athletes should have up 3 months off per year, in 1 month increments of a break from organized sport.
6. Focus on form and technique before intensity.

Appropriately managing activity volume, and knowing when to take an injury seriously is hard work. Communicating with your primary care provider, pediatrician, coaches, athletic trainer, or physical therapist when something doesn’t feel right can be a useful tool to ensuring season-long success.

But most importantly, sport should be fun!



Runners: How To Vary Your Training to Optimize Your Results!

Implementing variety into training is something that is commonly underutilized and overlooked among recreational runners. This is often the topic of conversation after we perform our running analysis or within a sports physical therapy session.

Varying speed, intensity, and distance can be a useful tool in run training, whether you’re training for a big race or just getting back into it.

Running at different speeds or intensities allows you to vary which muscles and tissues you are repeatedly straining. When you sprint, your technique is going to look very different than when you are going for a long, slow jog.

Including both in your training helps you to disperse the stress of the workout over more tissues, and can help prevent overuse injuries! Some examples of what this variety might look like: 

  1. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) runs: “sprint” training! Work to rest intervals should be greater (1:4, 1:5). For example. sprinting for 10 seconds and walking/jogging for 50 seconds. Repeat for 10-15 minutes. Great for a track or grassy field! 
  2. Interval training: longer bouts of faster running, not as intense as a full sprint. Work to rest ratios are going to look more even (2:3, 1:1 or 2:1 ratios). For example, fast running for 1-2 minutes, jogging for 2-3 minutes, repeat for 10-15 minutes. 
  3. Tempo training: usually done as a “long run”. Pick a pace, and try to stick to it throughout the duration of your run. Distances should be specific to what your goals are!
  4. Using Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale: If you don’t know what pace time is right for you, start with RPE! You can use a scale of 0-10, with 0 being completely at rest and 10 being a sprint as fast as you can possibly go. Fast bouts of HIIT training should be performed at an RPE of 8-10, whereas interval training should be closer to RPEs of 5-8. An example of an RPE scale can be found here 

In addition to preventing injuries, adding sprints and interval training can help increase muscle mass, cardiovascular endurance, and improve your ability to cover more distance in a shorter amount of time. If you’re finding that you’re constantly dealing with the same injury, consistent soreness in one muscle group, or you just want to shake up your training, a performance physical therapist can help find the right running program for you! 


One Quick Test of Shoulder Health

It’s not as easy as it sounds.

Maintaining a quadruped position (hands and knees) reveals a great deal about your upper body strength and preferred movement strategies. For these reasons, we use this position as a test and exercise within our sports physical therapy setting.

Even strong and muscular patients commonly assume a quadruped position with their shoulder blades pinched close together and deep lower back arch (belly button dropped towards the ground).

This position is often utilized because it conserves energy and allows the body to be lazy. Compression from the lower and upper back is used to hold the torso up against gravity, instead of the abs and muscles involved with reaching. These strategies are common among folks experiencing back pain, shoulder pain and a variety of other issues.

The abs and muscles involved with reaching (for example, the serratus anterior) are essential components of athletic performance, running, walking and pretty much being a human being.

As these skills diminish, the risk of experiencing various injuries may increase.

The bear test is a great way to see if test your upper body strength and movement capabilities.

Think you have what it takes to pass the test? Give it a shot with this drill!

Photo Credit

Polar bear” by tharendra is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Swimmers-Why Training on Land Improves Performance in the Water

Dryland training… It’s a love-hate relationship for every swimmer. Believe it or not, building strength and power on land is just as crucial to improving race performance as logging yardage in the pool. Shoulder pain and overuse is the most common complaint for swimmers (and is the most common sports physical therapy injury we see in swimmers), often impacting their ability to continue to train at a high level. How can we train the shoulders on land before returning to the water? 

Shoulder Strength and Resilience 

It’s important for swimmers to have adequate strength and range of motion in the shoulders to tolerate the repetitive load of a 2 hour swim practice. The rotator cuff plays a major role in stabilizing the shoulder during overhead movements and producing power through the pull-down. Lift off drills such as this target rotator cuff muscle activation and tolerance at an end range of motion. Once you’ve mastered the previous drill, overhead pressing variations like this and kettlebell stabilizing drills such as this will encourage you to recruit the larger muscles of your trunk and core to create resiliency overhead. 

Full Body Power 

However, swimming is a full body workout! It’s important to incorporate elements of full body power into your workout to prevent injuries when you’re racing or training at high speeds. Overhead medicine ball passes are a great functional exercise to challenge your overhead strength and full body stabilization in a dynamic environment. Progress this to a full medicine ball slam to further mimic the pull-through portion of your stroke, no water needed! 

Photo Credit

swimmer” by Pierce Presley is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

What Does It Mean To Be “Out of Alignment?”

“My body feel out of alignment.”

“My <insert healthcare professional here> said that my hips are off.”

“I think I just need to be adjusted.”

These are examples of a few of the comments that patients may express in physical therapy or other injury rehabilitations settings.

The belief that we are like a vehicle that needs to be re-aligned is often the fault of the healthcare industry, including physical therapy.

In the past, healthcare providers would tell their patients that a part of their body is out of alignment and needs to be adjusted to put it back in place. They explain that this is the reason for any discomfort that may be present.

Thankfully, this is no longer taught by most healthcare providers as this thought process has been disproven.

Our bodies are incredibly resilient.

Our joints do not simply fall out of alignment. In fact, our bodies are designed to move and if we were constantly “in line”, it would be impossible to move anywhere!

So, what is happening when an area of our body feels “off”?

As we perform a movement repetitively, compensations and movement limitations become more noticeable.

One area of the body may be moving excessively, while another area of the body may be moving too little.  For example, if your ankle mobility is limited during a squat, you will move excessively at the hips to pick up the slack, causing more stress in that area. As a result, pain, or the feeling of being out of alignment may occur in the hips/pelvis.

If you feel “off” or have been told that you are out of alignment, the solution is likely to begin with discovering what movement limitations may have led to this feeling in the first place. This information can then be used to teach you strategies to move and feel better!

Are you interested in discovering what solutions may be right for you? Contact us to find out more about our physical therapy services!

Try this to improve your hip and trunk mobility

Who doesn’t want to loosen up their hips and trunk while building strong hamstrings and glutes?!

It is common to encounter youth athletes and active adults in athletic physical therapy and injury rehabilitation settings who have tight posterior hips and stiff rib cages. This limits the amount of rotation that they available through the trunk and reduces mobility in a variety of different directions within the hips.

As a result, more stress is placed onto the lower back, knees, and other areas of the body. Overuse injuries often follow that send people to physical therapy, including general lower back pain, lumbar disc injuries, knee arthritis, meniscus injuries, etc.

The good news is that the root causes of these kinds of injuries can be addressed and often do not require a boring home exercise program.

The Single Leg RDL (Romanian Deadlift) is a fantastic drill that you can implement into your workout routine to improve your hip/trunk mobility and strengthen your glutes/hamstrings.

This drill is particularly powerful for rotational athletes like golfers, tennis players, lacrosse players, and hockey players.

We typically start our patients and training clients with the kickstand version of the Single Leg RDL before progressing to the more advanced versions below.

Kickstand RDL (front leg emphasis)

Kickstand RDL with Foot on Wall

The key with these activities is to ensure that you feel the back of your hip, glute, and hamstring working (on the working leg), while also feeling your abs working. You should not be feeling your lower back at any point during the drill.

Are you interested in learning more ways that you can adjust your exercise program to correct old injuries, improve your performance and/or stay pain free? If so, simply contact us!