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WHAT CAN I DO TO INCREASE THE SAFETY OF MY SPORT-PLAYING CHILD?

Sport participation has been shown to be a major cause of injury in adolescents. A lack of physical preparedness for the sport played has been shown to be one reason contributing to the risk of injury. Physical preparedness includes having adequate hip/knee/ankle muscular stability when landing from a marking contest or changing direction as well as necessary levels of strength and power to sprint and kick a football for example.

Despite the unfortunate aspect of injury risk in youth sport; the benefits of sport participation far outweighs this. These benefits include; improvement in overall health and bone density, lower rates of overweight/obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, risk-taking behaviours and depression, enhanced self-esteem and peer socialisation.

What can be done to reduce rates of physical injuries in children and teenagers?

Fortunately, there is plenty of research showing injury can be reduced through an Injury Prevention Program. A 2016 study analysing all the current research articles to that point found that an Injury Prevention Program directed at children and adolescents (when compared to training and playing as usual) reduced the injury risk rate by a compelling 40% amongst team sports.

These studies particularly looked at Injury Prevention Programs including a warm-up, muscular strength and balance. Your child could benefit from adding in some simple exercises at home. Below I have included 2 lower level exercises addressing muscular strength and balance performed 2-3 times per week would add great benefit. For additional exercises and more challenging options I recommend reading the FIFA 11+ program easily accessible with a Google search.

Finding fun and engaging ways that encourage your children to perform these exercises might help to improve their participation in this; tips such as playing balance games, performing with friends/siblings or used as a study break are some such suggestions. Additionally, educating children that these exercises have been shown to improve sporting performance (e.g. vertical jump, sprint times and agility) may further motivate their participation.

Below are 2 simple exercises that can be performed at home to help improve lower body strength and balance.

EXERCISE #1: DOUBLE LEG SQUAT

Key Tips:

  • Feet approximately hip width apart
  • Keep chest up
  • Don’t let knees come in
  • Don’t let heels raise off ground

Perform 6-12 repetitions x 2-3 sets. Perform twice per week.

EXERCISE #1: SINGLE LEG BALANCE

Key Tips:

  • Perform with shoes off to increase difficulty
  • Don’t let hip of the stance leg drop (think ‘up tall’)
  • Keep opposite knee up
  • To increase challenge; place arms by side and/or close 1 eye

Hold 20-30 seconds x 2-3 repetitions. Perform 2-3 times per week.

Would you like your child to be assessed and given an individualised injury prevention program to perform?

Physiotherapist Luke Dowse and AFLW Head Rehabilitation Coach Sam Batterton are well qualified and experienced to help your child.

Soomro, N., Sanders, R., Hackett, D., Hubka, T., Ebrahimi, S., Freeston, J., & Cobley, S. (2016). The efficacy of injury prevention programs in adolescent team sports: a meta-analysis. The American journal of sports medicine, 44(9), 2415-2424.

LaBella, C. R., & Myer, G. D. (2017). Youth sports injury prevention: keep calm and play on.

Shaw, L., & Finch, C. (2017). Trends in pediatric and adolescent anterior cruciate ligament injuries in Victoria, Australia 2005–2015. International journal of environmental research and public health, 14(6), 599.

Clifton, D. R., Koldenhoven, R. M., Hertel, J., Onate, J. A., Dompier, T. P., & Kerr, Z. Y. (2017). Epidemiological patterns of ankle sprains in youth, high school, and college football. The American journal of sports medicine, 45(2), 417-425.

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