The 10 Keys to Keeping your Youth Athlete Healthy – Part 2

Here is part 2 of the 10 Keys to Keeping Your Youth Athlete Healthy!

1. Foster relationships with people who influence your child’s athletic development. More importantly foster relationships with your child.
Get to know your child’s coaches, trainers, rehab specialists, etc. and foster an open forum to discuss your child’s progress. Do not be afraid to ask questions but also do place trust in these individuals as they don’t want you looking over their shoulder analyzing and critiquing your every move. When determining which coaches and specialists may be working with your child interview several and pick few early on. Not all coaches coach the same way and not all strength coaches and specialists are created equal. Seek out the best for your child early on and it will pay dividends in performance and injury prevention in the future.
San Francisco's Vernon Davis shakes hands with coach Mike Singletary during an NFL game in Indianapolis
2. Stress Management
Kids, especially adolescents and teenagers, deal with huge amounts of stress. Even though they may not be the same stressors we face every day like bills and maintaining a family/work balance they deal with the stresses of being a teenager. Homework, sports, social life and getting into college are just some of the stressors that challenge their ability to stay sane. Even though these may have been some of the best years of our lives they were also some of the most stressful. I know when we look back on our teenage years the stressors seem like nothing but trust me these kids are stressed. They sometimes leave their homes at 6am and then get home at 9pm after after-school activities just to sit down to complete homework all night. This feeds back into #1 getting enough sleep. Make sure your kids are able to have fun and aren’t working too hard to fill their college resumes with activities and accomplishments. Allow your kids to have fun and enjoy these years of their lives.
3. Improve mobility
Hips, shoulders and the thoracic spine (mid-back) are all places that kids as they age tend to lose mobility. This is often due to postural habits and from sitting too much at school and at home. Have a qualified movement specialist assess your athletes movement capabilities to assess their injury risk. Going back to Part 1 of this article; proper body mechanics will allow your athlete to properly perform their sport specific activities without further risk of injury. Without proper mobility through all of their joints, chances are they will be unable to perform activities with proper body mechanics which will lead to compensatory movements during sport eventually leading to injury. Spending a couple dollars now for an assessment will save you big money in the long run. Especially if it prevents an injury that may lead to surgery costing 10’s of thousands of dollars.
4. Allow them to have fun
Don’t be that parent. Don’t push your athletes to compete in activities and at levels they are not comfortable competing in. If they want to stay on a team to have fun with their friends, don’t push them to play for a better team where they won’t know anyone and won’t have any fun. Allow them to have say in where and what they play.
Also don’t be the parent that embarrasses their kid from the sidelines by screaming at either them or the refs. Allow them to find their own way on the field without your input. This includes your talks on the way home after the game. Allow both yourself and your child time to decompress after the game before letting the emotions of a loss or poor play get involved in the discussion. Make a rule for yourself never to discuss the game on the way home in the car.
5. Realize that athleticism is a process.
Often the best athletes are not the ones who matured and excelled early. The best athletes are generally late bloomers and hardworkers who put in their time to allow their athleticism and movement quality to develop. Many times the best younger athletes will fall behind as they reach puberty and need to relearn basic movement patterns. Often these are the athletes who don’t put in the hard work to develop as they age. “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” – Tim Notke. If your child lives by that mantra they are guaranteed to succeed, not just in sport but all aspects of life.
contributed by Dr. Jon Herting, DPT


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