Knee Injuries in Youth Sports – Part 1

knee injuries in youth sport

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The number of adolescents and pre-adolescents who participate in organized sports has increased over the last couple of decades. With this increase has come a corresponding increase in sports injuries.

Knee injuries are very common in growing bodies and can be devastating for both the injured athlete and their team, often costing a whole season of play. Strategies to reduce the number of such injuries and to ensure prompt and accurate diagnosis are critical.

[Read more…]

Growing Pains

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

There’s something strange happening to a large number of adolescent and pre-adolescent children on sports pitches every where.

It’s not a new phenomena, but it seems to be getting worse and is occurring right under our noses. If the national media get hold of it it will be labelled an epidemic.

It’s not obesity… or acne… or the sudden personality change. Something far more disturbing.

Young, talented, hard-working sports people across The land appear to be having their bodies snatched, and replaced with the body of someone who has never played sport before.

Get after their Number 8. He looks like he’s going through a growth spurt.

It’s heartbreaking. One minute your child is an athletic young player enjoying their sport and displaying all the attributes of a future champion. The next they look as coordinated as a new-born giraffe on roller skates.

Years of hard work. Hours of dedicated practice and honing of their skills seems to have disappeared.

Not only that, but they spend most of their time with niggling injuries. Knee pain. Unidentifiable muscle pains. Thigh strains. Shin splints. Back ache.

The doctor tells you it’s growing pains and will pass.

The physio advice is to stretch the tight muscles to regain mobility.

So they stretch their hamstrings, quads and groin. They do it for a while but then give up.

Then on the return to the Physio, there’s a stand-off. The Physio says they aren’t seeing any improvement because they aren’t complying with the stretching. The child’s says the stretching feels like it’s going to snap and saw no improvement so lost the motivation to do it.

In the mean time, your young player is rapidly losing confidence. They have had to adapt the way they move to still play their sport with their new body. And these awful movement patterns are becoming permanently ingrained.

Players who were way behind them on the pecking order are now overtaking them.

The sport they loved is now just a constant source of frustration and inadequacy. Nobody has an answer for them and the coaches that couldn’t do enough for them a year ago, now seem to have little interest in their issues.

As a parent it’s painful to watch. You can see the pain and anguish they’re going through, but feel helpless.

This is one of the key reasons I formed Speed Academy. The majority of young players that come to me are in this exact situation.

Most parents don’t see the need for dedicated athletic development until certain developmental issues highlight the deficiencies in sports training and school PE.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

When you understand what’s happening, it’s actually quite a simple solution.

Even better, if you have kids who are yet to go through this stage, it’s avoidable.

The medical advice that many parents get told is that the bones grow in spurts while the muscles and tendons grow at a steady rate.

So there will be periods, where the bones get too long for the muscles, making them tight.

So the answer is to wait until the soft tissue catches up and you can speed the process by stretching.

I used to advise this too. It kind of makes sense.

But then, when I started working more with young athletes, I actually had a chance to see what was going on.

The kids presenting with Osgood-Schlatter disease and other related knee problems all had the same faulty movement patterns.

Movement patterns that would cause huge stress for the knee joint and tendons. Allied to the multi-directional nature of the sports that they played and you have all the mechanisms for a chronic knee problem.

So what was the nature of this faulty movement pattern?

Why was it happening to young people that previously moved so well?

To demonstrate what’s happening, you need a hammer.

Get a big mallet and hold it in one hand half way down the shaft and lift it up and down using just your wrist.

Your wrist represents the hip, the shaft is the thigh, and the hammer mead represents the additional weight of the lower leg and foot.

Shift your hand a couple of inches further away from the head and repeat. Not as easy, huh?

Now try holding it right at the end.

This is how it feels when your thigh bone rapidly grows.

Where previously, the body could handle the shorter limb through a full range, the now longer and heavier levers create a higher strength demand.

The hip muscles can only control these levers through a much shorter range. Anything outside this range would be beyond the capabilities of the muscles thus leading to possible tear.

So in order to protect them from being torn, the body limits the length available.

With certain muscles shortened, movements have to adapt.

Feet splay out like a clown when trying to accelerate.

When they decelerate, the back bends like a willow tree in the wind. And posture all round is weak.

When they try to run, it looks like their feet are stuck in treacle. It looks like the whole body gets involved in dragging the foot off the floor and through for the next stride. Knee lift is none existent.

This isn’t a flexibility issue.

It’s a strength one.

We need to create a buffer zone of strength in the hip and trunk muscles. Then and only then, will the body will remove the safety restrictions.

Therefore, through this growth period the focus should be on postural awareness, and full spectrum strength through full range of movement.

Basic strength exercises performed with good technique are all that is required here.

With this understanding it is possible to prepare your players in advance so that the growth spurt has a minimal effect on their athleticism and hence enjoyment of sport.

It is criminal that young athletes – even those in professional football and rugby academies – can fall completely out of the system having shown so much promise.

It’s unnecessary if robust training systems are in place and the children, coaches and parents are educated and buy into it.

As part of my ‘Developing The Growing Athlete’ month I’ll be holding an educational workshop for parents and coaches on Thursday 17th April.

If you’re interested in helping your child/ren achieve their potential and continue to enjoy playing sport then please contact me via email, Facebook or Twitter for further details.

If you have found this article useful, I would be most grateful if you could share it in the usual social media channels.

Yours in speed

RG

Olympic Legacy – Are We Just Chancing It?

Early Sport Specific Training Allied To An Otherwise Sedentary Lifestyle Is Leading To Chronic Injury And Unfulfilled Potential In Our Young Athletes.

 

The next generation of sports stars may have been inspired by the amazing performances at the Olympics, but long periods of sitting and the health and safety police mean they stand no chance in the world of elite and professional sport.

 

This is compounded by early sport specialisation that is being promoted by sporting governing bodies to ensure that the best athletes aren’t lost to other sports. Repetitive movements lead to asymmetries, inhibited movement ability and pattern overload leading to chronic muscular/joint conditions.

 

Despite the fact that success in football and rugby is heavily reliant on athleticism, very little emphasis is placed in the coaching curriculum on developing good mechanics in acceleration, deceleration, changes of direction and athletic body positioning. While lip service is paid to Istvan Balyi’s recommendations on Long Term Athlete Development, how many coaches out there has the skill and knowledge to be able to correct a player who is off balance when decelerating? It’s not the coach’s fault. He can probably see the problem, but no amount of cueing will get a body to hit a position that it doesn’t have the physical capabilities for.

 

What does the coach do? Shout the cues louder? Accept that the kid is not going to make it?

 

Relying on “natural talent” coming through will provide an ever decreasing pool in years to come.

 

In previous generations, schools and sports clubs didn’t need to teach these qualities because they were  developed through general play. However thanks to the health and safety police, along with the fear of expensive law suits, climbing trees, jumping off high walls, British Bulldog, playground skipping and evasion games have become, in the main, extinct.

 

Our children have replaced running, jumping, throwing, dodging, landing, cycling, pushing and pulling with sitting, slouched over a pc or x-box.

 

When they aren’t doing this, they are playing or training for their chosen sport. The training at sports clubs tends to be focussed more on doing things more or faster than doing it better. So movement quality always gets compromised. Supplementing training with going to the gym and doing single plane, muscle based workouts, or going for a long run will only exacerbate the problem.

 

It seems the coaching federations have been a bit slow to respond to this change in youth lifestyle. They were probably wasting time looking at what the successful countries a doing. Do you think Spain, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand have an outdoor play problem?

 

Recognising Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) and testing for physical competencies is a start, but it’s not widespread enough and the lack of experience, knowledge and coach training in this area means that its implementation is average at best. Don’t get me wrong. This is neither the coaches’ nor clubs’ fault. I’m a believer in coaching only what you’re good at and doing it very well.

 

*****

After working with and testing many young football and rugby players coming through professional academies, I recognised a trend. They were not physically prepared to cope with the requirements of top level professional sport.

 

I don’t mean they weren’t strong or fit enough. That’s easy to rectify. No, they were mechanically poor.  And this takes a lot more time and dedication to reverse, as well as being far more dangerous. Imagine Lewis Hamilton going out in the next Grands Prix driving your car, but with an F1 Engine. How long do you think the tyres, brakes, clutch, suspension, chassis would handle it? How competitive do you think he’d be?

 

I set up Speed Academy to bridge this gap in LTAD and provide young athletes with the athletic foundation required to succeed in professional sport.

 

Most people are not slow because of their genes. They’re slow because their co-ordination is compromised. Why? That’s where a good assessment comes in, but in most cases, co-ordination is something you lose rather than gain. Look at any 5yr old run, squat, jump and land. By the time we leave school, our movements are a product of what we repeatedly do. If we are not doing all the movements I described earlier, we lose that ability.

Very rarely in training will a football or rugby player sink into a full deceleration position. Most of the time it will be a rushed and abbreviated movement. Then, when required in a game situation, the movement isn’t strong enough. So a compensation is made.

 

The period from 14-18yrs is a time of high speed growth. Limb lengths grow at a different rate to the muscles and tendons. This leads to co-ordination, strength and flexibility issues. This is also the time when there is a pressure to be bigger, stronger, faster. Loading up faulty or compromised movement patterns will compound the poor movement.

 

Training at this age must be very movement quality focussed. Strength, speed and power improvements will come as a consequence of this. You can’t rush strength and size gains at this stage. The hormones in the body will control this. If you maintain co-ordination and movement quality through this period, the player/athlete that comes out of the other end of this hormonal cyclone will be awesome.

 

At the end of August, I’ll be running a 1 day Speed Camp to give aspiring future champions an insight into what is possible. They’ll discover areas where they can improve their athleticism. But most importantly, they’ll learn HOW.

 

At the Future Champions Speed Clinic, attendees will learn how to:

 

  • Warm up for optimal performance
  • Optimal athletic stance for reactive movement and strength
  • Accelerate quickly and efficiently
  • Decelerate rapidly while keeping your eyes on the game
  • Change direction with balance and control
  • The first step tricks used by the quickest players

All this will take place outdoors on a 3G surface at La Liga Soccer Centre in Thornbury.

All attendees will receive a free Speed Academy T-shirt, supplemental speed training handout and a £50 voucher for Speed Academy.

Who is it for?

Anybody playing a multi-directional field or court sport aged 14-18 who want to get an edge on the competition.

Date: Thu 30th August

Time: 9:30-4:30 

Venue: La Liga Soccer Centre, Thornbury, Bradford

Only 20 Places available

 

You can learn more and register here

 

 

Football – It’s All In The Hips (part 1)

I was working with a tennis player this week who has a chronic groin problem. His lack of hip mobility means that, in order to make the shots he wants to, he has to compensate through his spine.

Ideally, his legs and footwork should get him to the shot, keeping perfect posture throughout the stroke. This perfect posture will keep his head still through the shot and enable him to see his opponents movements in his peripheral vision. Not only this, always having great postural alignment gives a consistent, repeatable technique that has optimal transfer of power from hips into the racket.

The tightness he has in his groin means he can’t sink his hips low enough to hit low volleys, half volleys and ground strokes correctly. To make up the deficit, he has to bend at the spine. This gets him close enough to play the shot.

The ramifications for this are huge. As his spine bends, the torso rotates differently which means his hands have to compensate and reach to make contact. In effect he’s inventing a new shot every time. Power is lost in the shot, and because his centre of gravity has shifted further towards the edge of his base of support, he is not as quick to recover. What’s most significant though is that, as his spine flexes and one shoulder drops, his head has moved with them and they are no longer level. This makes hand eye co-ordination less accurate and as he follows the ball, he loses sight of the other side of the court, and hence his opponent’s movements.

What the he’ll has any of this got to do with football?

It's nothing new. He knew what he was doing back in 1974

A change of direction in football – with or without the ball – poses the same problem. If you’re moving relatively quickly, you have to sink the hips to decelerate and change direction. Top players  will maintain an upright posture while doing this (Zinedine Zidane was fantastic at this so no excuses for you big guys).

This sinking of the hips means that you can keep a straight torso. This small difference allows you to keep your eye on the flow of the game while changing direction and losing your marker. Once the cutting movement is complete, because you’ve had your eyes on the game throughout the move, you”ve created the space needed and slot that incisive pass or drive into the available space.

Let’s now assume you have poor core strength and hip mobility. As you sink to change direction, your spine flexes and your head drops. Eyes are on the floor at this point. Not by choice but by physical necessity. As they slowly drag themselves out of the cut (trust me, you ARE slow if you aren’t dropping your centre of gravity low enough) you lift your head to look for your pass. For the next .2-.5 of a second your eyes are trying to catch up with the game. Then you find your man and start to make the pass. Too late, you need to push it again to create yourself a bit more space and the game moves on.

Without postural (pillar) strength and the necessary hip mobility you will always be playing 1-2secs behind the top players. Glass half empty

Work on your pillar strength and hip mobility and you will be able to play at a much higher standard than you currently are. Without feeling rushed.  Glass half full!

Don’t be silent. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Yours in speed

Rob

%d bloggers like this: