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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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“Why do I have tennis elbow if I’ve never played tennis?”

Posted on 4th July 2017 by

It’s a question we hear a lot in physio! The term ‘tennis elbow’ is the commonly used (and much easier to pronounce) name to describe what’s actually known in the medical world as ‘lateral epicondylalgia’ or ‘lateral epicondylitis‘, meaning ‘pain on the outside of the elbow’.

ennis elbow physioTennis elbow is a common type of elbow pain which occurs when the tendon of our wrist extensors muscles (the muscles that life our wrist up) becomes inflamed and irritated where they insert on the outside of the elbow. Because these wrist extensor muscles are worked extra hard in tennis which requires both a strong grip and explosive flicks of the wrist for back hand shots, these two names became synonymous.

However tennis elbow can occur in any one who does a lot of repetitive wrist extension or gripping activities and can be classified as a repetitive strain injury (RSI). In fact, it probably affects more non-tennis player’s than tennis players! Outside of the tennis world we see it a lot in office workers who spend long periods of time typing or who have a poor ergonomic set up, who come to see us with pain in their elbow.

In the early stages, tennis elbow can be treated effectively with rest, ice, anti-inflammatories and modification of activities to change the way you lift, grip or type. For example, lifting an object using your hand palm-up rather than palm down uses different muscle groups so affords the wrist extensors some rest.

Using ergonomic keyboards and mouse set ups (e.g. vertical mouse) can also reduce the strain on these muscles.

Unfortunately, this condition can be persistent if you don’t change the aggravating activities or have left it and it has become a longer term issue. If the above simple strategies aren’t working for you, you’ve been experiencing problems for some time or the pain is limiting you doing what you want or need to do everyday, come and seek our help. We’ll be able to assess you in detail and use a combination of manual therapy, ultrasound, acupuncture and strength and flexibility exercises to speed up your recovery. We’ll also ask about your day to day activities you struggle with and offer helpful solutions to modify these, or use of an Epi-clasp strap to offload the area if necessary. Remember the sooner you seek help the quicker and easier it is to get your pain better, so don’t’ let it linger on!

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Anyone for tennis?

Posted on 29th June 2017 by

Wimbledon 2017With Wimbledon in full swing, our attention turns to the tennis courts. Whilst you’re enjoying the obligatory Pimms, strawberrys and cream this year you may feel inspired to get on the court and try it out for yourself. In this blog we take a look at the health benefits of tennis, how it can help you get in shape this summer and importantly how to avoid injury.

Tennis is truly a full body work out; a single 1 hour game can burn as many as 600 calories and requires cardiovascular fitness, endurance, quick reaction speed, power and flexibility. The professional’s can serve a ball at over 130mph and will use both brain and brawn to defeat their opponent.

The good news is you don’t need to be super fit to get started, tennis is suitable for people of all ages and abilities so whether you’re a complete novice or a competitive club player it’s a great way of keeping in shape, developing tactical skills, as well as enjoying the social side of things off the court.

New to tennis?

If you’re new to tennis, start with a friendly game, aiming to keep the ball in play for as long as possible. This will help you learn hand-eye coordination skills and sharpen your reaction time. If you’re not used to regular exercise a doubles game means a little less running around and doesn’t require quite as much flexibility to reach the ball.

Tennis can be a great way to meet new people or get the kids more active over the summer holidays. Playing regularly can help to lower your resting heart rate and blood pressure, improve your metabolic function, reduce cholesterol and body fat, improve co-ordination and increase bone density. It can even help combat stress and anxiety.

Take a look at the following local opportunities to play tennis:

Hiltingbury Tennis Courts – Get yourself a key card for just £10. You can book courts or pop along for open access.

Eastleigh Park Sport – are running a range of tennis sessions this summer for 8 – 16 year olds for just £1 a session!

Find your nearest tennis court here, on the LTA website.

Tennis for kids gives 5 – 8 years olds an opportunity to learn the basics of tennis in a free 6 week course.

Avoid Injury

tennis racquet grip sizeTo avoid injury make sure you get the basics right first – if you have current injuries or health problems get them checked out by a physiotherapist or by your GP before you start playing.

Make sure you pick an appropriate beginners racquet with the correct grip size to avoid hand and wrist injuries. Your local sports shop should be able to help you with this but as a guide you should have a finger width of space between your thumb and fingers when gripping the racquet.

A dynamic warm up for 10 minutes before you play should include jogging, heel raises, lunges, trunk rotations and arm circles as a minimum. Make sure you stretch the major muscle groups after playing to avoid post-exercise muscle soreness.

Getting coaching on proper technique will ensure you don’t develop bad habits early on which could increase your risk of injury. It also means you learn all the skills you require to develop your game quickly.

As tennis is a relatively high impact sport make sure you alternate it with low impact exercise such as swimming or yoga to help improve muscle balance and flexibility.

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Tennis Injuries

Posted on 2nd July 2016 by

We’re half way through the famous annual Wimbledon Tennis event. It’s such a popular event and Tennis injuries Chandlers Fordcertainly creates a buzz around the sport.

Tennis places huge physical demands on the professionals, which is understandable given the rigorous training and competition they take part in. Yet, for the novice tennis players out there, injuries can be just as problematic.

Common tennis injuries include:

  • Tennis elbow
  • Shoulder injuries such as rotator cuff tears or impingement
  • Low back pain
  • Wrist sprains
  • Calf muscle injuries
  • Ankle sprains
  • Knee injuries such as ligament sprain or tendon issues
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

Mild to moderate soft tissue injuries can often be well managed at home using P.O.L.I.C.E. principles. However, many tennis injuries result from ‘overuse’ – so an injury that is from a sustained, repeated action, like a tennis grip or swing. If this is the case, you may need help identifying exactly where the problem is stemming from and what changes that are needed. Physiotherapy is an effective way of resolving all of the above common injuries.

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy have written a summary of the common tennis injuries and how physiotherapy can help.

If injury’s stopping you from enjoying a game of tennis, then get is touch with us at goPhysio. We’ll provide an accurate diagnosis of your injury and a treatment programme that works to get you back in the game.