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Why youngsters should play multiple sports

Posted on 9th May 2018 by

With the end of season finally upon us for many of our most popular kids sports, we’re seeing a huge spike in the number of youngsters we’re seeing in the clinic with injuries. Unfortunately, many of the most common growth related injuries (Severs, Osgoods Schlatters, Sinding Larson etc.) affect the most active and sporty children at a time they are experiencing growth spurts. Although there is a part of this that we can’t control (growth!), what we are seeing increasingly contribute to the injuries these kids are presenting with is very frequent, intense participation in single sports. We also see this across a huge spectrum of sports, so football, swimming, gymnastics, tennis, dance & more!

Our sporting culture here in the UK (and many other countries too) is to ‘pigeon hole’ children into a single sport from a very early age. Before they know it, children are training / playing / competing / performing in a single sport 5 – 7 days a week! Unfortunately, much of this early specialisation in single sports is driven by the coaches and/or teams. Parents and children fear that if they don’t specialise and fully commit to a single sport they are risking their chance and future success.

The intentions of most parents, coaches and teams is well meaning – the more they train or practice for the sport, surely the better they’ll get and the higher the chances of ‘success’ (defining what success is is a whole other topic that won’t be covered here!).

However, all the evidence points towards the opposite being true – there are many benefits to playing multiple sports and risks to early specialisation in a single sport. The title image of this blog was recently published in the Sports Business Journal, why kids shouldn’t specialise in one sport is discussed here.

The benefits of playing multiple sports

  • Improved sporting performance – studies suggest playing multiple sports at a young age will actually enhance sporting performance in the long run
  • Between the crucial development ages of 6 – 12, playing multiple sports will enhance development of fundamental movement skills
  • Increased athleticism, strength and conditioning – playing a single sport can improve skill for that particular sport, but can limit overall athletic ability
  • Increase chance of developing a lifelong love of playing sport / exercising – if enjoyment, fun and variety are the focus, children are less likely to burnout
  • Develops a more creative athlete by exposure to many skills, situations and environments

The risks to early specialisation in sport

  • Injuries – repeated movement and demands placed upon developing bodies can increase risk of injury. The more movement variety youngsters have, the less risk they have go picking up an injury.
  • Burnout (see the great infographic below on how to prevent this).
  • Social isolation – commitment in hours to training, travel and competing can have an impact on a youngsters social life.
  • Early over-professionalisation – sport is seen in an adult, commercial context with winning being the main focus.

Burnout in young athletes

The crux of it is, for the majority of youngsters, taking part in sport is a way for children to develop well physically, have fun, enjoy activity with friends and importantly install lifelong love of being physically active to help them live a healthy life!

Unfortunately for many sports, naivety from the top won’t change things, it’s very shortsighted and their well-meaning intentions don’t actually have the health and wellbeing of children as a priority. However, sports such as Hockey, do give a glimmer of hope. Their Player Pathway is an excellent example of a great framework for specialisation.

  • They don’t identify ‘talent’ until players reach 12/13
  • Their over riding aim is to “provide fun, enjoyable, learning for every player”
  • They develop close links with local clubs and schools
  • They provide an extra 6-10 hours training a season for ‘talented’ players which then leads to a very structured pathway of progression
  • Children can continue playing for their local and/or school team

So, what’s the takeaways from this:

  • Evidence suggests that children should take part in multiple sports and avoid specialisation until they reach adolescence (around 13, The American Association of Paediatrics says 15)
  • Offer lot’s of opportunities to they different sports and activities whenever you can
  • The focus should be on fun and enjoyment
  • If they do get an injury, seek professional advice. That may need specific guidance on an exercise programme, training programme and activity modification to help them

You can read another great article on the subject here.

benefits of playing multiple sports for children

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New report shows health benefits of swimming

Posted on 22nd June 2017 by

A new report has just been published, that outlines the health benefits of swimming.

Based on significant evidence and research, the report summarises that:

“As one of the most popular modes of physical activity, swimming/aquatic exercise confers significant physical health benefits for both healthy individuals and those with disease. Furthermore, these health benefits extend across the entire life-course – from foetus through to the frail elderly.”

As physiotherapist, we often recommend swimming to our patients. Water is an excellent environment for exercising in, not only as a regular, low impact form of exercise but also if you’re recovering from an injury. The buoyancy of water helps promote freedom of movement, increasing joint mobility and easing pain and stiffness. You don’t have to go to a pool and swim lengths! We often give people exercises to do in the water, that they wouldn’t always be able to do on dry land. It is also a fantastic way of maintaining fitness if you aren’t able to take part in your normal high impact exercise (such as running) due to an injury. Swimming can be a way to maintain cardiovascular fitness and endurance, whilst your injury heals and progress is being made at gradually returning you to your normal exercise.

A recent example of a young patient we’ve had at goPhysio, where swimming has been excellent. An 11 year old keen footballer with Severs (heel pain related to growth), Unable to play or attend football training more than twice a week due to heel pain, this young boy was becoming increasingly frustrated, starting to gain weight and loose cardiovascular fitness. Part of the management of Severs is to modify activity and treatments are limited, with time and normal growth rate  being a key part of symptom reduction. So, he was advised to start swimming regularly and his progress has been amazing. He’s felt more positive, been able to maintain and improve fitness and has gradually increased his time on the pitch, without aggravating his pain. Swimming has paid a key part in helping his endurance, strength, muscle flexibility and psychological wellbeing.

The report summarises that  for musculoskeletal health “evidence suggests that aquatic exercise has positive effects for a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions, favourably influencing pain, function and, for some, quality of life. The nature of the aquatic environment is ideally suited to individuals with MSK problems, given the reduced compressive joint force secondary to buoyancy.”

Health Benefits of Swimming

Source: The health & wellbeing benefits of swimming. Commissioned by Swim England’s Swimming and Health Commission, chaired by Professor Ian Cumming, Produced June 2017

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Common Triathlon Injuries

Posted on 31st January 2017 by

Triathlon is a highly demanding discipline, consisting of swimming, cycling and running. It’s an endurance sport which requires suppleness, agility, flexibility and strength throughout the whole kinetic chain, all of which take their toll on the athlete.

Triathletes commonly train between 10-15 hours per week, so injury is normally due to overuse of the body. Additionally, due to the time expended training and competing, participants tend to get less time to recover or sleep as they fit in intensive training regimes around work and/or home commitments. It is particularly important, therefore, to be in the best of health. Eating a high protein diet, facilitating better recovery and building muscle mass, is a smart way to stay ahead.

Common triathlete injuries

Knee Injuries are very common in triathletes, they can be caused by:

  • The excessive forces generated from poor knee over pedal spindle position when cycling, leading to patello-femoral mal-tracking & patellar tendonopathies.
  • The excessive rotational forces through the knee caused by a poor technique in swimming, causing ligament sprains, cartlidge or meniscal problems.
  • Overuse soft tissue injuries caused by excessive heel strike or flattened foot arches, when running i.e. Achilles tendonopathies, shin pain, ilio-tibial band friction syndrome.

Tendonopathies Achilles tendonopathies are one of the most common tri-athlete injury. The achilles tendon tends to shorten on the bike and when transitioning into running, is over-stretched and over time, it becomes overloaded and injured.

Ligament Sprains Affect mainly knees and ankles, sustained through trauma when falling, twisting or landing awkwardly.

Muscle Tears These commonly occur within the explosive accelerating muscles of the lower limb. They frequently occur at the start of a speed or hill session (with inadequate warm-up) or as a runner becomes fatigued towards the end of a session.

Shoulder Injuries 60% of swimming injuries are related to the shoulder, due to repetitive excessive over-rotation and constant overloading of the joint and muscles. This causes impingement (trapping of the soft tissue against the bone), rotator cuff tendonopathies, sub-acromial bursitis, or muscle imbalance, trigger points or an unstable joint.

Neck and Shoulder Injuries With poor alignment on the bike, over-stretching and reaching can cause a build-up of tension within the neck joints and muscles, causing facet joint stiffness, myofascial trigger points, disc injuries and nerve entrapment.

Back Injuries The lumbar spine is often affected, due to the sustained, unnatural flexed position of the cyclist. Long-term overuse lumbar facet joint and disc conditions often occur, as do chronic muscle imbalances, trigger points and painful protective muscle spasm.

Foot and Ankle Injuries Poor running technique (excessive heel strike) or flattened foot arches, can result in shin pain, achilles tendonopathies, ilio-tibial band friction syndrome and back injuries.

Many of the common triathlon injuries can be prevented through education and body conditioning. Making sure you are aware of injury risks and crucially, taking steps to avoid them is the best course of action. This includes:

  • Warming up effectively
  • Being aware of any personal ‘risk’ areas i.e. tightness, weakness, imbalances – and more importantly dressing these
  • Using the right equipment, set up in the best way for you
  • Working on your technique
  • Balancing training with rest and recovery
  • Mixing up your training with other activities, such as Pilates
  • Not ignoring any niggling injuries that may build up

If you suffer with an acute injury or have developed an overuse injury, get in touch with us at goPhysio. Our team of Physio’s are well equipped to help you overcome your injury and build long term, physical durability to help stop you suffering an injury again – getting the best enjoyment from your triathlon!

Read more on cycling injuries, running injuries and runners knee.