10 Ways to Avoid Overuse Injury and Burnout for Your Youth Athlete

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Follow these tips to avoid overuse injury and burnout

Youth Sports are a great way to keep your child active and finding a love for sports.  Today there are many options available to parents between recreational leagues, school based programs, and clubs.  As a physical therapy provider we are seeing an increase in youth athlete overuse injuries and burnout.  So here are a few tips to help your child avoid overuse injuries.

  1. Increase the amount of free play – Allowing the child to choose what they want to play occasionally throughout the week helps keep them interested in the more focused training of youth sports
  2. Keep focus on fun and skill development – Kids play sports for one main reason “fun”.  Sometimes parents and coaches get focused on achieving the “win”.  In efforts to win, parent and coach feedback can drain the “fun” from the sport.  Breed the passion, joy, and skill for the sport first, and let the desire to win to naturally build in the child.
  3. Avoid multiple teams – Avoid having your child play on multiple teams during a season.  While this may help expose them to more in the sport, it can create confusion in training.  A team’s coach trains his team to perform as a unit.  Different coaches train differently and can make it difficult for the athlete to adapt to these differences.  Also athletes that play on multiple teams will have more repetitions and less recovery, resulting in overuse injuries.
  4. Watch out for burnout – Respond to your child’s complaints of fatigue and pain, don’t ignore it.  Whether or not these complaints are real, your child is trying to communicate something.  Sit down with them and talk with them about this, just remember it is more about listening at this time than talking.
  5. Take 2-3 months off from the sport every year – Youth athletes are extremely resilient but just like professional athletes their bodies need a break from their sport.  This doesn’t mean that they stop playing any sport, but find a sport that has the performs different movements to allow the athlete to recover.  Not only does this help with the body but also it helps them mentally recharge.
  6. Increase training gradually – It is important to let the body adjust to training and grow to meet the new physical requirements.  Studies have shown that an athlete should increase training no more than 10% weekly.
  7. Take days off weekly – During the sports season make sure your youth athlete has at least 1-2 days off per week to let the body recover.
  8. Advocate a Medical Team – With any sports league, school program, or club.  It is important to have a team of medical advisors to be a resource for the parents, coaches and athletes.  Often a medical team can address medical issues immediately and reduce the severity of injuries.
  9. Provide proper nutrition – Proper diet is the foundation for a strong body.  Educating your child on proper nutrition can set the precedence for a lifetime.  Keeping the muscles and joints healthy with proper nutrition helps protect a child from overuse injury.
  10. Proper Sleep – It can be challenging for youth athletes to balance school and sports, but it is important for their health to get at least 8 hours of sleep a day.  This gives the body and mind time to recover.  It also helps with improving performance.

Following this tips can help your child grow and find a love for sports.

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