As life is beginning to wind back up again, many of us are finding ourselves rushing our children to numerous activities every day. (Didn’t we say we wouldn’t!)
A common question that we get asked all the time by parents of budding and often talented young athletes is, how much is too much? And sometimes it’s a difficult one to answer! Every child is different and can handle different levels so try not to compare. Know your child and also apply these points below to help you make an informed decision.
It has been reported in the literature that high game and training exposure at a time when the child’s skeleton is immature and still developing can result in severe consequences for the younger athlete.
Appropriate management of a child’s training hours is very important in order to prevent serious injuries, which can potentially result in long term disability and affect the chances of an athlete performing at a higher or professional level of sport later in life.
Often adolescent training loads can exceed those typically prescribed to elite athletes due to commitments with numerous teams. Over-training often occurs when young athletes are participating in multiple sports or representing multiple teams in the same sport including school, club and representative or development squads. At times, the immature musculoskeletal system is not capable of supporting these high loads and this is when we start to see progressive soft tissue injuries and chronic overload injuries in our young athletes.
Things you can do to help prevent an overuse injury include:
- Ensuring good communication between coaches and managers of different teams. The coaches between teams may be able to discuss if there is any crossover in training during the week (e.g. 2 teams both running a fitness session) and therefore the child may just participate in one of these sessions rather than both
- Ensure all coaches have accreditation by attending coaching courses
- Training programs should be individually tailored to the child and consider each child’s level of physical maturation, size, weight and skill level
- Someone from the club/association should have basic first aid knowledge
- Whilst children can get sore muscles after a lot of exercise as we can, they shouldn’t have pain when exercising or afterward. Any child complaining of ongoing pain, tenderness or limitation of movement should be referred to a Physio immediately. Children should not have pain when exercising.
- Warm-ups and cool-downs should be completed at each training session and game
- Be aware of injury prevention programs that have been developed for your sport. These WORK and can create life-long movement patterns that will keep them injury-free throughout their sporting career.
- The frequency, duration and intensity of both training and competition should be monitored and discussed with all coaches involved to ensure overtraining does not occur
- Children prior to puberty should be exposed to a wide variety of sporting activities so that general skills can be developed. Early specialisation should be discouraged at a young age to prevent overuse injuries or muscular imbalances. Eg. Try to avoid “specialising” in one sport until after the age of 12. Earlier years should be spent developing skills such as catching, running, agility, kicking etc.
The possible outcomes of high-volume, high-intensity training in children are not confined to physical injury and can include overtraining syndromes, sports burnouts, increased susceptibility to illness, psychological disturbances and performance decrements. Let alone, not truly develop a lifelong love for sport and exercise.
As children don’t often understand some of the severe adverse effects of overtraining, it is important that parents and coaches are well informed in this area.
If you would like to know more or are concerned about your child, please pop in to talk to a SquareOne Physio to discuss your concerns. If concerned, we will often involve a Sports Doctor.