As strength and conditioning continues to be a priority in youth sports, it’s more important than ever that young athletes and their parents understand the importance of proper form. Young athletes often aren’t experienced in correct strength training techniques, nor do they understand what amount of weight is appropriate for their developing bodies. Not surprisingly, many feel the pressure to work out with more weight than they should in an attempt to get stronger faster.
Competitive fire is great, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of injuries that will keep an athlete on the bench and out of the game.
We see a lot of young athletes from middle school to early high school who are eager to get more playing time by getting as strong as they can as quickly as they can. They have access to their school’s weight training program, but they may not have consistent, hand-on training from a coach while doing so. Perhaps a coach or trainer has written a workout on the board, demonstrated the exercises quickly and then left the athletes to lift on their own. While older athletes may be developed and experienced enough to complete the routine safely, younger athletes are more vulnerable to injury.
This is especially true in kids who are still developing. Since everyone grows and develops differently, it’s important for athletes and parents to pay close attention to this issue. Kids who have yet to hit their growth spurt, or who have not fully completed it, have natural inconsistencies in the development of their bones and muscles. Attempting to lift too much weight when the muscle development hasn’t caught up to the bone development can cause failures in the back, knees or hips.
Prevent these kinds of injuries from happening by making sure your athlete is aware of proper technique and appropriate weight. If he or she is not getting an adequate amount of training in a school or club program, consider scheduling a few sessions with a personal trainer with experience in strength and conditioning.
If a young athlete experiences an injury or regular pain resulting from a strength program, physical therapy will help. Caught early, these issues are generally easy to correct.
Our first step is pain control. We find out exactly what’s hurting, and reduce the level of pain through manual therapy, isometrics and other modalities. Then we examine how the athlete has been performing their weight training exercises by having them safely simulate what they do in the gym. We watch how they move and hold their bodies through common exercises like dead lifts, squats and clean pulls. Sometimes we’ll video the session and slow it down to take a hard look at form and function. Then we correct their technique and give them guidelines for the right amount of weight and repetition to accomplish their goals safely.
As a former athlete, one of my biggest passions is helping young people master their training techniques and help them understand that it’s not about how heavy the weights are, but how much weight they can lift while also being technically sound in their form.
Brittany West, DPT is a licensed physical therapist with HPRC’s St. Francis Rehab River Road location. Brittany earned her DPT degree from the Medical College of Georgia and is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association. Her practice areas include orthopedics and sports injuries.