Overuse injuries result from training too hard without allowing the body enough time to recover and repair itself. Hitting the weights too hard, doing too much of the same thing, or jumping into high-performance fitness classes too quickly can all lead to injury.
Here’s how your youth athlete can minimize the wear and tear of frequent exercise on his or her body:
Ease Into It
Choose physical activity that’s age- and fitness-level-appropriate. Start by working at a more comfortable pace or doing modified forms of an exercise. Then, gradually increase the time and intensity of workouts.
Use Proper Form
Doing exercises correctly stabilizes and strengthens the muscles surrounding joints, protecting them from injury. If your student athlete isn’t sure how to do an exercise properly, make sure he or she asks a coach or trainer for help.
Warm Up, Cool Down
Warm up for 5 to 10 minutes, starting with a mild aerobic activity like walking or jogging, then doing easier versions of the exercises that will make up the workout. After the work out, spend 5 to 10 minutes cooling down by walking and stretching to minimize muscle soreness.
Everyone’s body needs downtime to recover. Rest is an important part of an injury-free routine. Student athletes who exercise regularly should rest at least one day a week by doing nothing, especially if they are tired or sore from the previous day’s workout.
Switch It Up
Besides resting, athletes can also switch activities to use different muscle groups. For example, they can alternate running with upper-body strength training. Stretching sessions like yoga or Pilates can provide needed rest, and increase range of motion to help prevent joint injuries.
When the Pain Doesn’t Go Away
Athletes who experience overuse injuries should avoid exercises that worsen the pain. They can also switch to activities that place less stress on joints, like swimming or using an elliptical machine. Make sure your young athlete sees a doctor if pain persists or worsens.
For more information on AHN Sports Performance, visit AHN.org/SportsPerformance.