The difference between pediatric and adult injuries has been a hot topic in past decades. Experts on youth athletics, conditioning and medicine have been reshaping the way children and adolescents are approached. We have seen limitations in pitch counts for little league baseball, weight requirements for youth tackle football, and now a significant change in the way we train young athletes for strength and conditioning.
Revolution Physical Therapy recognizes the importance of appropriate pediatric treatment based on several key concepts.
- Children and adolescents need to focus on creating muscular balance, coordination, force absorption, flexibility, speed, balance and proprioception. Their training programs should be comprehensive focusing on motor learning and sports specific movements.
- Pre-adolescents do not show increases in muscle size from weight training but do show improvements in strength secondary to enhanced muscle fiber recruitment.
- Techniques and form should be strict with feedback given frequently. The new consensus on weight training in adolescents is that is safe at any age as long as it is supervised.
- Long Term Athletic Development is a concept that considers the appropriate age for an athlete to focus their training for a sport. Other than gymnastics (specialization around ages 11-13), most sports do not require the athlete to specialize until they are their last 1-2 years of high school. Prior to this, the athlete should be cross training and playing as many sports as possible
to develop differentiated motor skills and abilities.
Make sure you warm up. It takes at least 15 minutes of warming up to be able to prepare your body to perform at your best. The warm up is part of training. Static stretching should not be performed much prior to workouts. Ballistic stretching is much better. Static stretching may actually decrease your muscles ability to gain maximal contractions during the active part of the workout.
Performing an appropriate warm up will allow you to get your nervous system ready to perform at a high level.
Example warm up: Jumping rope or jogging 5-10 minutes, followed by 5-10 minutes of calisthenics and some ballistic type stretching for another 5-10 minutes. These should be performed both in standing positions and positions on the ground. This starts the initial alarm on your nervous system.
This can involve many modes and types of physical activity. Youth exercise should be focused on development and functional activities. We need to focus on coordination, technique, form and ultimately having fun. Exercise should rarely be used as punishment as this can create negative long term psychological associations with exercise and staying fit. Group activities are always beneficial and younger children are more likely to engage in activities in groups. Activities that involve competition are also very engaging for young children. Challenges to see how many times or how fast a child can do something will keep them motivated.
All exercise routines should incorporate some type of cool down activity to allow the body to slowly return to its resting state. Static stretching is most effectively employed during the cool down phase. Muscles are warm and will respond to static stretching much better than prior to exercising. Static stretching has also been shown to be detrimental to muscle force production if done prior to exercise, especially resistance training and plyometrics.
Youth conditioning is as specific as any other type of conditioning program, even for Olympic athletes. There are cardinal principles which must be understood and followed to appropriately allow the developing child to become the best athlete possible, avoid sustaining preventable injuries and avoid developing chronic disease problems from inactivity.
If interested please contact Revolution Physical Therapy for a free consultation to find out how we can help your child enhance their athletic performance and stay physically active.
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