The Rise of ACL Injuries in Youth Athletics

Concussion prevention should not be the only prevalent topic in regard to injuries affecting youth and adolescent athletic participants. The number of young athletes damaging the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) has increased significantly over the last 15 years. Parents, coaches, and youth athletic organizations must take steps to correct this problem.

Of the four ligaments which connect the bones of the knee and provide stabilization during movement, the ACL carries the biggest workload. Orthopedic surgeons nationwide have seen as much as a 400 percent increase in ACL injuries over the past decade. These medical professionals point out today’s youth athlete is subject to an increased amount of participation hours compared to similarly aged athletes of earlier generations.

Example: Consider the athletic participation by the average high school soccer player. Children as young as four begin their organized soccer experience. There are fall and spring seasons, as well as indoor soccer sessions. In theory, the body of a 16-year-old may have been subject to 36 soccer seasons during the 12 year span. The same can be said of other ‘year round’ sports such as volleyball and basketball. Children playing baseball or softball are involved in seasons running from early spring through late summer, and those same players will then participate in fall leagues lasting one to two additional months.

For decades, many youth athletes would participate in shorter seasons which allowed them to play two or three different sports during the year. Athletic organizations are now pressuring prepubescent and adolescent athletes to specialize in a single sport at an earlier age. The age of specialization has created an increase in repetitive, or ‘overuse,’ injuries to youth participants. Whereas a change in sports meant a change in how an athlete’s body was being used, the single-sport athlete now uses the same muscle groups continuously throughout the year.

Some doctors worry the way children are now being trained for a sport is too harsh for the undeveloped body. Many youth coaches use the same training approach as is used with professional athletes. A child’s body is not fully developed and injuries to such areas as the ACL come into play. Teaching the proper fundamentals to young athletes does not have to include training sessions geared for an adult’s body.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons believes more studies are necessary to improve the knowledge of injuries occurring to youth athletes. An increase in proper conditioning can reduce the injury numbers. In the case of older children and adolescents, strength training programs need to focus on muscle efficiency and strength. This differs tremendously from adult-oriented bulk strength training.

Just because youth athletes play multiple sports does not guarantee a lesser chance of an ACL or other serious-type injury. Rest also plays a huge part into recovery time for a child’s body. Consider placing the child on a less competitive league, or one which has a lesser amount of games for the season. There is also nothing wrong with a child taking a break from a sport. Giving up fall baseball or indoor soccer may lead to an overall healthier environment for a youth athlete.

This research coupled with “over-use” injuries that are growing, it is important to be an advocate for your child when selecting programs, teams, coaches, and camps.

Goals and Commitment from Salt Lake City

My training has recently been upped to 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. I have learned a lot about my commitment to sport and commitment to self.

I set goals for myself, and understand that I can do a lot to help myself achieve these goals.

It is important for our young athletes to begin to set goals for themselves; both long and short term. These goals should be specific, as vague goals allow for slips.

 cross me

My personal goals, are clear cut. I have a specific time I want to achieve. I will get this chance at the upcoming nationals in March, at Madison, WI.

Goals must also be realistic. The times I will achieve at Nationals are challenging yet realistic. I understand i will be competing against some of the best skaters in the nation. It would be unrealistic to challenge myself to win the competition, against Olympians! But I must also push myself.

Our young athletes must also take ownership.

Notice I said “I WILL…” this phrasing will not afford me the opportunity to fail. If I say “I may…” then I will open myself up to coming short of my goals.angry face

 

Goals are something every athlete should think about; however, he/she MUST do this for him/her self!

No Athlete is too young. I always say…(every morning)… To be a champion one day… I must train like one now!

 

Greetings from Salt Lake!

-Kyle Essex

 

Are Your Kids Learning Integrative Muscular Training?

Synopsis: Sports injuries for children can be painful, upsetting and expensive. A recent study found that a great number of them can be avoided with the simple implementation of a good old fashioned workout before the game starts.

Health is one of the most commonly cited reasons parents give for encouraging their children to play sports from a young age. Parents believe that playing sports will help their children develop a love of fitness, avoid obesity, and promote great physical development. Many parents also believe playing sports from a young age will reduce their child’s risk of injury in the future.

Researchers have identified, however, that engaging in sports is not enough to reduce the risk of injury in children. In an interesting research study published in Curr Sports Med Rep, researchers looked at ways to reduce the risk of injury through sports. In many ways, risk is an integral part of sports, and many parents encourage sports participation as a safe way of letting their child take risks.

Though integrative neuromuscular training (the fancy term for warming up) is considered a normal part of sports practice for adolescents and adults, it is not yet commonplace on the fields of younger sports teams. Neuromuscular training does come with its own set of risks, and it was previously thought that younger children were not old enough to handle warm ups safely. The research study published in Curr Sports Med Pub, however, found that age appropriate, properly supervised integrative neuromuscular training progams may reduce the risk of sports injuries in younger athletes.

Integrative neuromuscular training is a particular type of warm up program that teaches athletes safe ways of moving during play so that they are less likely to injure themselves during the game. Individual programs differ, but many contain elements such as squatting, marching, side-to-side shuffling and jumping, with particular attention paid to alignment and positioning. Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament are unfortunately common amongst sports players of all ages, but integrative muscular training can reduce the number of these injuries by as much as 50 percent.

The researchers identified that this type of training may even be most beneficial during pre-adolescence, highlighting the importance of more youth teams taking up this important training technique. Training programs should be tailored to accommodate the individual needs of each child, focusing specifically on developing motor skills. It is believed that introducing this type of training early will reduce the risk of sports related injury both now and in the future.

The cost of introducing a new training program like this is estimated to be less than $2 per child, making it financially beneficial compared to the cost of potential medical bills. Speak to your child’s coach to find out whether they are currently using an integrative neuromuscular training program, and if not, why not?

My Journey Into Speed Skating

speed-skate Hello… From Salt Lake City!

My journey into speed skating started not too long ago. It was around 3 years ago that I began. My sophomore year of college saw my Track and Field career come to an end, but my competitive itch was still there. Having been a hockey player and Track runner, I saw speed skating as the only logical option.

That winter break, my sophomore year, I gave this obscure sport a try, right here in our very own Flushing Queens. I was relatively fast but had little technique. I quickly realized that this was going to be something I would have to work at. I began training with two clubs up by my college (Syracuse and Binghamton). Although my skill was lacking it was the knowledge and drive from my other sports that allowed me to succeed. The same lessons I try to instill in our campers at Future Stars.DSCN4583

My Journey followed the same path until this past summer. Knowing I was going to graduate in the fall I began to prepare for the next step in my athletic career. Being a sport that isn’t high profile, there are select few places to train at an elite level. Summer training intensity grew as I was preparing to move to Salt Lake City, Utah. Home of the Fastest ice on earth, and is now the home to myself.

I have been here 3 weeks and have already improved tenfold, but it hasn’t come easy. I train every morning for 2-3 hours, and again at night for 3-5 hours, leaving me little time for a normal job. But it is this kind of commitment that success, at any sport or any goal, requires.

I look forward to keeping you all posted throughout my training, as well as seeing you all this summer!

-Kyle Essex

Kyle has worked at Future Stars Summer Camps at The College of Old Westbury since 2012 as our Swim Camp “dry land trainer” and our Off Court Tennis Camp Group Leader.

Stepping Into The Shoes Of A Coach

640Synopsis: By following a few simple guidelines, first-time youth coaches can create a rewarding experience for players, parents, and themselves.

One of the first places an athletic organization looks toward when there is a coaching vacancy is usually in the area of the bleachers where the parents sit. Whether a parent seeks to fill a coaching vacancy or the organization seeks out the parent for the opening itself, agreeing to become the new coach creates an interesting situation – that of coach/parent. No longer is the person just one of the moms or dads in the stands. This person has accepted the ‘whistle of reason,’ and while it may look to be a daunting task, becoming a coach should be accepted with the same enthusiasm as a new job assignment or as would being appointed an officer in a fraternal organization. These roles require some homework, some leadership awareness, and an outline of how to be most successfully developed. It is no different becoming a first-time youth athletic coach.

Starting Points

  • Take into consideration what age group needs coaching. Practice drills and sessions need to be implemented accordingly. Do not use advanced drills or strategies if the athletes are at the beginner’s stage.
  • Learn all rules specific to participation in the organization or league. For instance, the league may require teams to follow ‘minimum play’ guidelines, or there may be a distinct pitch count in place in a baseball league. Make sure assistant coaches are also aware of these special rules.
  • Attend organization meetings, specifically the pre-season informational sessions. If the organization offers a coaching clinic, attend it as well.
  • Search the internet for any tips on drills and coaching. The parent may have played the sport before, but there are always new twists and wrinkles to teaching sport-specific techniques.

After all the pre-season legwork is completed, make sure to schedule a ‘parents only’ meeting. Emphasize such important points as player ‘drop-off’ and ‘pick-up’ times. A coach is not a babysitter. Make certain they are accountable for arriving promptly pre- and post-practice. Explain in detail the fact playing time is based on items such as practice attendance, attitude toward the sport, child safety, and performance.

To prevent future headaches, let the other parents know there will be no discussion regarding playing time. Coaches may want to print out a form with all the team rules and expectations and have the parents of players sign off on it. This can avoid trouble down the road for that soccer coach approached by a dad angry over his daughter playing a limited role on the team. The coach should, because the child was absent from practice once a week because she is also involved in the volleyball team, simply pull out the signed form and point to the section explaining practice attendance.

There are two specific watch outs for new coaches. The first is to make practices is enjoyable as possible. This falls into the area of age-specifics, but in today’s instant gratification world it is important to maintain the attention span of youth players. If a drill is plodding along, take the initiative and change to another drill. Before introducing a drill, look at it from the players’ point of view. Is it interesting? Is it helpful? If a coach thinks it is boring, what will the players think?

The second watch out is for new coaches not to forget they are still parents. Make sure all players are treated the same, regardless of their ages. Coaches can tend to be harder on their own sons or daughters. Or, worse, coaches put their own kids on a pedestal. Be sure every player is treated the same.

Finally, it is critical to remember that your goal should be for the long term development of each child, not just to “win the next game.” Developing the technical skills in the sport correctly will greatly benefit the players in the long run and this goes back to insuring all activities are age/level appropriate.

Three Hard Lessons Kids Can Learn From Sports

cryingbaseballSynopsis: Kids can learn a lot of great lessons from sports, even if some of them are a little painful at the time.

The benefits of sports for young people are many, and they are well-documented: physical fitness, confidence, and making friends are among the top reasons to engage your kids in various sports. Whether they only play for a few years while they are young, or play all the way through high school and beyond, the benefits of playing sports can last a lifetime.

One of the challenges that some parents face when placing their children into sports is that not all of the lessons they learn will be painless at the time. In addition to the many great times that will be had on the field or the court, there are likely to be some tough times as well. It is likely that those difficult moments will be even more valuable compared to positive experiences in the long run, but it might not feel like it in the moment. It is important for parents to let their kids learn these lessons so they can grow both on and off the field.

Below are three hard lessons that kids can learn from sports –

1. You Won’t Always Be the Best

It is rare for anyone who plays sports to never come across someone who is better than them. If you played sports growing up, you surely know the feeling of realizing that there are kids who are better than you. This moment comes at a different age for everyone – maybe it happens early in grade school, or maybe it doesn’t happen until college if you are essentially the star athlete in high school.

Learning this lesson as a young person is invaluable because it shows kids that it is okay not to be the best, or the most talented, as long as they work hard and try their best. Success in life is more about effort than talent, so learning to compete against those who are more talented than you is a great lesson to learn.

2. Things Don’t Always Go Your Way

Adversity and sports go hand in hand. Anyone who has ever stepped onto a field or court to compete in a sporting event understands that there will be challenges along the way that you don’t expect. Sometimes, it comes in the form of a bad call from a referee. Other times it might be making a crucial mistake at the wrong time that costs your team the game. Of course, adversity in real life is just as common as it is in sports, so learning to deal with it is a great thing for a young person.

3. Losing Happens

Most kids are naturally competitive, and want to do everything they can to win. There is nothing wrong with that, but losing is a part of sports – and a part of life. Some kids have trouble dealing with losing at first, so it is important that they experience this feeling and learn how to deal with it. When kids learn at a young age that it is okay to lose as long as they try their best, that lesson can serve them well as they move on in life.

Let Your Child Make The Decision Continuing To Play A Sport

DSC_05860Synopsis: Many factors should be considered before a parent talks to a child about leaving a team sport.

When your child is visibly succeeding while playing a sport, it is easy to recognize how much the child enjoys being a participant. The same cannot be said if your child is an average or below average performer. Whether it is the limited playing-time, or the fact your child is playing a supporting role to the better players, it is more difficult to see whether your child is enjoying the athletic experience or not. If your child fits into the latter category, you need to be very careful in approaching your child to determine the answer.

The first place to start involves the age of your child. Your ten-year-old son may be only playing two innings per baseball game, may be prone to making more than his share of errors in the field, and is batting a lowly .224 on the season. You may look at his display of athleticism as being the worst on the team, and your protective parental nature may be clouding your fair assessment of whether your boy is having fun. Kids develop at different times in their lives. Your weak-hitting, two-inning left fielder may hit his growth spurt two years later and start leading the team in doubles and runs by the time he celebrates his 13th birthday. Saying the wrong thing to him about baseball when he is ten may prevent him from wanting to stick with the sport later on. Once you determine your child is enjoying the sport, do not offer derogatory comments which may be seen by the child as your disapproval.

The parent in you should gauge if your child is having fun participating in a sport. You may have told your daughter how great it was when you ran up and down a soccer field. Your daughter goes out for the sport, but does not find the same enjoyment that you had. However, she wants you to be proud of her. She would never ask you to quit the team, or want to be signed up for the next season. Notice her actions around her teammates, especially if she has friends whom are also on the team. If friendship and companionship cannot create a source of enjoyment for the child, it may be time for you to start a conversation with your daughter to find out her true feelings. She may shock you, and want to continue with the sport. The fact you initiated the talk may allow her to truthfully tell you how she feels.

Watch for how active your child is during the practice sessions. During games watch the interactions with teammates. Is there a smile on your child’s face? Has the sport become grueling for your child? Be fair in your observations. After all, you want the best for your child.

How To Help Your Kid Turn A Hobby Into A Career

284Synopsis
Essentially all parents will tell you that all they want for their child is happiness. You want your child to grow old and happy, spend his days doing something he loves, surrounded by people who love him. So, how can you help him achieve that dream job on the field?

Turning a hobby or a passion into a career is most people’s idea of heaven. Being paid to do something you love, and earning a living while enjoying yourself, is pretty much a universal dream. “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”Parents especially love to help this dream become a reality for their growing children.

If your child is gifted at sports, and passionate about the game, he is probably dreaming big and hoping that he will one day play professionally. As his parent, you want to believe it can be done, but you also know how slim the odds are for anyone wanting to become a professional sports player.

So, what can you do to help increase your child’s chance of achieving pro status?

Keep it fun
Your child wants to be a professional sports player because he loves the sport. To allow him to compete to be a pro, you need to let his love for the game continue. This means following his lead, letting him play as often as he likes, and not ‘forcing’ him to play when he doesn’t want to. The game he loves shouldn’t feel like a chore, it should be something he loves doing most of the time.

Encourage diversity
Most professional sports players played a variety of sports when they were growing up. Committing to a single sport too soon actually increases the risk of injury. You may want to encourage your child to spend time playing as many sports as possible, and not just sports that you feel will complement his favorite sport; let him experiment with any sport he wants. All sports improve fitness and teach important lessons in confidence, self-esteem, coordination, and social interactions.

Seek out opportunities
There are plenty of opportunities out there for your child to get noticed. Seek them out and encourage your child to give them his all. There are summer sports camps, county teams to try out for, scouts to play in front of, and sports scholarships to win. Consider yourself your child’s career coach and help him make the most of the opportunities available.

Be realistic
It’s important to stay realistic, and it’s even more important to help your child stay realistic too. There is nothing wrong with dreaming big or aiming high, but it’s important to know that it will require a lot of hard work to reach the top. Make sure your child works hard on his studies, and spends time on other hobbies and passions, so that he has a fall back plan in place. There are many ways that your child can turn their love of a sport into a career beyond playing.

Nurture him
A career in sports isn’t easy. Once the struggle to the top is over, and you’re signed to a professional team, there is plenty of hard work and pressure to come. Your child will need to grow up and know how to handle stress, react well under pressure, and cope with the emotional strains of both winning and losing. The best way to teach these skills to your child is to model them yourself. Nurture your child, give him the best start in life, and allow him to grow into a well-rounded adult who can excel at sports, even when it comes to coping with being at the bottom of the league.

Are you the parent of a future professional sports player? What steps are you taking to help your child achieve his dreams? What other ways can your child stay involved in sports as a career?

Sports Can Help Your Kids Learn How to Learn

143 (2) Synopsis: The lessons learned in youth sports are more than just physical. The mental challenge presented by many sports can do wonders for the minds of young people.

Depending on what sports your child chooses to play, there will likely be a variety of specific skills that they need to learn in order to excel in that sport. Beyond basic athletic movements like running and jumping, many sports that kids love to play require additional skills like throwing, catching, swinging, kicking, and more. While they might not grow up to be a professional athlete in their chosen sport, the process of learning these skills is something that will likely pay off for years to come.

The classroom setting at school is where kids will do most of their learning. Not only will they learn vital skills such as reading and math, they will also learn to grasp more complicated concepts later in life. Intelligence is not only measured by what a person knows, but also their capacity for learning new concepts. The more capable a child is to processing information, the easier school will be as they move through grades and into college.DSC_0524

However, not all learning has to take place in the classroom. The same effect can be achieved by learning a sport-specific skill from a coach on their team. For example, kids who participate in basketball have to learn a variety of skills including proper shooting form, passing technique, defensive fundamentals, and more. As they progress in the sport, coaches will provide them with instruction as to how they can improve their mechanics with something like shooting a basketball. Processing that information, and then translating it into how they shoot the ball, is a developmental process that will help them succeed.

As kids develop and progress in their respective sports, the tactical and strategic part of the game becomes more important since the basic technical skills are being improved but no longer new to them.

Kids conditioned with learning skills from sports not only use their minds to process the coaching they receive, but they also have the ability to get instant feedback and results that prove they are improving. If a child is having trouble shooting free throws, and is helped by a coach, they can quickly see the fruits of their labor when more of their free throws start going through the hoop. This is one of countless possible examples of how a child can learn how when they are participating in any number of different sports.

Too many people have the impression that sports are only good for physical exercise and for burning off the energy in young kids. In fact, there is a profound mental component to sports, and the lessons that are learned can be on par with those that are learned inside of a regular classroom. By engaging your children in the sports they are passionate about, you will be giving them an opportunity to expand their mental capacity beyond what they receive during the school day.

A Lifetime Of Fitness Can Start On The Field

543Synopsis: Maintaining physical fitness is key to a healthy adult life, and participating in sports as a child teaches great lessons that help toward this goal.

It isn’t breaking news that obesity is a problem that has swept across the United States, and parts of the rest of the world as well. Maintaining a healthy weight throughout adult life is one of the biggest factors in staying healthy, yet more and more people are having trouble doing just that. While an increase in awareness has started to chip away at the problem, there is a lot more work that needs to be done to restore our population to a healthy weight.

The good news is that it is relatively easy to set your child up on a path toward a lifetime of fitness- simply enroll them in sports when they are young. When a child is exposed to fun, rewarding, and fulfilling activities at an early age, they will be far more likely to continue with physical activity later in life. Most of the attention in regard to the obesity problem in our country is related to nutrition; however, physical exercise plays just as important a role in managing weight. Only when a person is able to combine a healthy diet with regular exercise will they be able to control their weight successfully.

Learning Skills and Understanding Exertion

One of the many benefits of participating in sports is learning how to exercise and developing habits of an active lifestyle. It can be difficult to get started on a physical fitness routine for adults who were never active as children because they never had the opportunity to learn those skills and get comfortable pushing their body through physical challenges. The same way your child would be unable to do math as an adult if they never learned it as a child, they need to learn how to exercise effectively so they can carry that knowledge with them throughout their life. Sports are the perfect way to teach kids about exercise because they will be having fun while they are learning these valuable lessons.

As your child continues to grow, they may or may not decide that they want to be involved in sports throughout high school and beyond. Regardless of how long they choose to play organized sports, the things they learn and habits they develop about caring for their bodies and getting regular exercise are important to their long-term well-being. When they become adults and take on the responsibilities of adult life – jobs, children of their own, etc. – it will become more and more difficult to stay physically fit. However, you will have done them a huge favor by instilling basic exercise skills from an early age. Hopefully, as more and more children are engaged in sports, the obesity problem faced in this country will begin to fade away.