What We’ve Learned Coaching Kids’ Sports
We dispense plenty of podiatric care and advice from our office. However, it is always worth reminding ourselves that the recommendations we make here in our professional “bubble” aren’t always quite as easy to execute in the outside world.
One of the ways we know this? The time we’ve spent outside the practice to coach local youth sports teams!
Don’t get us wrong—the young athletes are great kids, and sports can be an excellent way of fostering teamwork and discipline. But even with all those elements, your plans just don’t always go off the way you expected them to.
While you can’t stop every snag and mishap in the real world, practice still makes perfect—or at least closer to perfect. There are many good habits and choices both kids and parents can follow to aid in sports injury prevention. Making them a regular part of your sporting routines can save a lot of pain and downtime in the future.
A lot of ways to help your child prevent sprains, stress fractures, Achilles tendinitis, and other sports injuries often takes a common sense approach. But, like we said, it’s about finding the ways to make these things actually happen!
Getting in a Good Warm-Up
Warming up is essential to preparing the muscles and other soft tissues for more intense activity. Forcing your body to go “from 0-60” without proper conditioning opens the way for increased risk of injuries.
The good news is that both kids and organized sport leagues usually have warm-ups handled pretty well on their own. Kids tend to be more than happy to expend a little extra energy before a game, and most coaches know they should get their players ready before the real event begins.
Warming up doesn’t always have to be one set routine, either. Usually, a good mix of some stretching and light jogging is a suitable warm-up. Doing only static stretches is often what a lot of people picture when thinking of warming up, but this is not the full picture.
In some cases, we might have recommended a focus on particular stretches, such as when a patient might have tight calf muscles or is currently dealing with Sever’s disease. It is important to make sure these types of exercises are performed regularly, and especially in a warm-up situation. But they still shouldn’t be the entirety of a warm-up.
Being Open About Having Trouble
In some situations, there can be a lot of perceived pressure to “play through pain.” This can come in the form of a team culture that stresses everyone doing their part, or personal thoughts of not wanting to let parents or friends down. Sometimes, it’s simply a fear of having to miss out on something your child loves!
This conception of persevering even when something hurts is never healthy, though. Continuing to play with a hurt foot or ankle greatly increases the risks of not only further injury at the time, but also recurring problems in the future. This is especially true for ankle injuries, which can lead to chronic instability if they do not heal properly.
Make sure your child understands how important it is that they stop playing and tell you or their coach when something is causing them pain. Even pros get hurt, and they should not feel ashamed or pressured into continuing.
As a parent, it also helps for you to be on the lookout for signs of injury such as limping, favoring one side over the other, or wanting to end practice or play unusually early.
And if their coach is telling the team to keep playing through pain, that coach needs a talking to. They can be putting the long-term health of the kids at risk!
It can be encouraging to see your child committed wholeheartedly to one sport, but it can be easy to overdo things. If your child is spending every day of the week playing or training for the same thing, at the same level of intensity, it can eventually lead to an overuse injury.
Rest days are important to our bodies at any age. By taking work off the muscles and bones we focus on, it provides them the time they need to recover and come back stronger from the damage they receive during activity. (That’s literally how we improve our bodies!)
In addition to days of lower intensity, it’s also helpful to have days that focus on muscles other than the ones primarily used in your child’s sport. (For example, soccer players are more likely to focus on their legs, etc.) Cross-training is a recommended way to both help reduce the occurrence of overuse injuries and build a more holistic level of fitness.
Over the long run, it can be a good idea to switch up the type of sport with the season, or to limit the total number of sports your child can participate in at one time.
Get a Yearly Check-Up
A pre-season physical is a good way to determine whether there are any areas of concern that you and your child should pay extra attention to. Any conditions that are recognized should be addressed before going big into training.
If your child has a history of foot or ankle issues, we also encourage a yearly check-up here at Premier Podiatry Group. Having a podiatrist who knows your child’s medical history and their ongoing podiatric development can help identify (and take care of!) developing problems even sooner. That can mean less potential downtime and fewer impediments to play.
If your child ever suffers a foot or ankle injury, or you have questions about their foot development, walking patterns, or anything else related to their podiatric health, please don’t hesitate to give one of our offices a call:
- Ebensburg – (814) 472-2660
- Johnstown – (814) 409-7373