Are You Doing Enough to Keep Your Kid Safe in Sport?

5 Important Things You Need to Know
to Keep Your Young Athlete Off the Sidelines

Do you want the best for your kid? Is your kid’s safety on the pitch a big concern for you? Sport provides so much for our young athletes that it is impossible to be able to put it all into words. But all these benefits don’t come without risk, one of those being injury. How can you as a parent do everything you can to keep your child healthy, happy, and continuing to enjoy the beautiful game? Read on to understand more about your child’s risk and to ensure you are making their safety your top priority. 
 
Does Your Child’s Story End in Success?

You know from the time you feel your little ball of life pounding at your uterus they are going to be a soccer star. Let’s name this ball of life Aiden. As Aiden hits 13 years of age, he is destroying it on the field. Yes, at that age it is still all about having fun but how awesome is it to see your little guy take the piss out of the other team. His coach identifies the talent and gets him onto a more competitive team, meeting 3 times a week. Aiden is loving it as he is always going hard at everything he does. At every recess at school he plays soccer with his friends, coming back into the classroom drenched in sweat just in time to learn. After a quick snack when he gets home, Aiden is at the park playing basketball for 2-3 hours before sprinting home to eat dinner. After dinner its either soccer practice during the week or hopefully some homework if you’re lucky. On the weekends he’s got hockey and soccer games, sometimes requiring you to drive him straight from one to the other on the same day. 

Photo by Donnycocacola on Unsplash
He’s good at sports and is so happy to be able to play so many of them. You see this  in his eyes which makes you happy. All of your efforts are worthwhile for this reason despite how much time it takes out of your schedule to get him to all of these activities. Sounds like the dream, right? The only real question is which sport does little Aiden want to focus on before going down in the hall of fame? The answer? It doesn’t even matter. 
 
Fast forward 10 years. Aiden has had a couple bad ankle sprains, a low back injury, a broken ankle, and 2 knee surgeries to repair a torn ACL and meniscus that occurred in a university soccer game. Most of these injuries were not properly rehabilitated as he would do whatever it took to get back on the pitch. Aiden pushed hard to return to the game and was successful, however, he never really was the same player after this. He now is left with the same expectations he had of himself during his prime. He starts putting more and more pressure on himself to perform at the same level he knows he was capable of in the past. This turns into performance anxiety and suddenly the fire he once had for the beautiful game is there no more. 
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash
Fast forward 10 years. Aiden has structural bony changes in both of his ankles and both of his hips as well as early osteoarthritis in his knee. The pressure he was putting on himself starts to translate into other areas of life to the point where it can sometimes paralyze him. He hasn’t played soccer in years as his career became busy and he just wasn’t as good as he expected himself to be. What happened to all of that skill and promise at age 13? The fact is Aiden was never set up for success
 
Does this story seem awfully specific? This is my story. And now as a practicing physiotherapist, I know there is way MORE we can do to set our kids up for success. Managing training volume, injury prevention programs, proper rehabilitation from minor injuries, assessing foundational movement patterns and mobility, as well as ensuring collaboration between all members involved in your child’s health are good places to start. Below is a brief guide on what you should be considering if you want your kid to have a chance.
Photo by Alex on Unsplash

5 Important Things You Need to Know
to Keep Your Young Athlete Off the Sidelines

1. Managing Training Volume

Our bones don’t stop growing until we are in our mid 20’s. While we are young, the load we put through our joints will create adaptation. If little Aiden is pounding on his ankles and hips with all the activity he does, his body will start to adapt by increasing the stability of the joint in order to withstand these high forces. In order for a joint to transmit more force the body may start to lay down more bone over the years to increase its load bearing capability. This sounds great but comes at a cost of mobility which can have detrimental effects down the road. Playing multiple sports and actually having an offseason are other good strategies to manage your child’s sport volume and prevent overtraining. I will dive into this in a future blog post.

2. Implementing Injury Prevention Programs With Your Team

More and more research is coming out in the injury prevention world and it is becoming a much bigger focus for our young athletes. Programs like the FIFA 11+ for Kids under 14 years old has been shown to reduce severe injury rates by as much as 58%! All this involves is two 15-20 min sessions/week. There is also a FIFA 11+ injury prevention program for kids 14 and up. We have solutions already that have been proven yet still most of our teams are not using them. Opening up this conversation with your kid’s coach or finding a qualified professional to lead these sessions with the team are good places to start.

Photo by r._.f from Pexels

3. Assessing Movement Patterns BEFORE There is an Injury

Why do we always wait until there is pain before taking action to do something about it? It’s like Donald Trump waiting for thousands of people to get sick from COVID-19 before starting to take it seriously. Too soon? Having a physiotherapist (PT) assess the way your child moves can ensure they are on the best route possible and reduce their risk of injury in the future. This doesn’t mean you are going to have to commit to 8 sessions and hundreds of dollars. Sometimes the assessment is enough to get your child working on the right areas. You’re PT will make sure you’re child has the right mobility, strength, and that the right muscles come on at the right time. Just like we go to the dentist to make sure we don’t have cavities, we can also think proactively with regards to the way we move. 

4. Proper Rehabilitation from Injuries (Even the Minor Ones!)

Kids appear to be indestructible at times. They bounce back from certain positions or collisions that would no doubt put us adults in the hospital for weeks! Injuries do happen, however, and it is important to monitor the complaints of your child. It is easy to chalk it up to them just being a wimp and that the incident on the field didn’t even look that bad. But what happens if you’re wrong and they may actually have an injury that needs to be dealt with. Watch to see if they are moving differently as this is more of an indication that they aren’t just milking it. Getting proper rehabilitation from a physiotherapist should not only address the symptoms of your child but also address the root cause. I could give you a hug at the end of your appointment and you may even feel a little better but that won’t reduce your risk of re-injury. Pain is important but not as important as the quality of movement. Regaining every bit of mobility and having the entire body in mind to prevent future injuries is also imperative. Your physiotherapist should be able to observe your child performing game like movements with ease and proper movement patterns before sending them back into the game. Without any rehabilitation your child could be at a significantly increased risk of future injury. 

5. Ensuring Collaboration: Who's Quarterbacking Your Team?

It is really important to get everyone on the same page. If your child’s coach isn’t talking to the academy coach who isn’t talking to the personal trainer who isn’t talking to the physiotherapist, then how the hell does anyone know if your child is doing too much? If you can encourage everyone to stay connected, your child will have a better chance at staying healthy. The other option is to appoint one person to oversee this aspect of injury prevention. Just make sure it is the person who has the most knowledge in the area and not just who has the most letters behind their name. Just because training for 3 hours/7 days a week worked for your child’s coach doesn’t mean it’ll work for your child. 
 
Understanding the problem is the first step. Taking action is the next. There is a lot we can do to better set our kids up for success. The good thing for you is you don’t have to do it alone. Get the right people in your corner and give your kid a chance. 
 
Mike Azzopardi
Physiotherapist 
MSc.PT, BSc.Kin, FDN 

Share this with your kid’s team or have their coach send Mike an email to chat about how to better protect your child and their team. If you have any further questions or comments please don’t hesitate to leave them below. You can also email Mike to take advantage of a 20 minute complimentary consultation. This allows him to learn more about your child’s situation before recommending the best plan of action. 

Email: mike.azzo@inspirerehab.ca.  

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Andrea

    Thanks for sharing your story Mike! I am a big fan of the FIFA 11+. Great points!

  2. Emily

    As someone who doesn’t have kids, I still found this to be a very interesting read ! Really made me think back to playing sports as a kid, and although this is not something I dealt with personally, I had a lot of friends who did. The mentality of getting back onto the field or court as soon as possible, even when dealing with a significant injury is definitely a prevalent one. Great to start sharing this message and tips with parents, coaches and kids!

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