Training “too much, too fast, too soon” has been called the “terrible toos” for as long as I can remember, because it’s a great formula to create an injury. But one of the problems with this line of thinking is that it can be very difficult when you’re in the moment to understand whether you are in fact doing something “too much, too fast, or too soon”.
We often don’t know whether an athlete has over trained until they come in to the doctor’s office with an injury. We then work backwards and if we’re lucky we can point to specific training errors as the likely cause of the injury. Is there a way we can monitor training loads going forward to avoid exceeding the thresholds for overtraining? Wearable activity trackers may be the answer.
There’s general consensus that overuse injuries in teenage athletes can be reduced by carefully monitoring playing load for the young athletes. Recommendations have been put forth to encourage multi-sport participation, limit number of months played per year, and limit number of hours of sport participation per week as ways to reduce the risk of overuse injury.
Athletes’ behavior, however, is often different. Many teenage athletes participate in high school and club sports, often at the same time. The result is that training loads are frequently much higher than what is recommended.
Over the last several years there’s been a growing consensus that some sport behaviors place a young athlete at risk for overuse injury: single sport specialization before age 14, playing that sport in training and competition more hours per week than your age in years, and playing more than eight months out of the year. Sport specific recommendations such as PitchSmart have also emerged.
What was previously unknown was whether following these recommendations actually leads to reduced injury rates. Recently published research indicates that parents who are knowledgeable of the PitchSmart recommendations and follow them with their young pitchers show significantly reduced injury rates compared to parents who were unaware of those recommendations.
Stress fractures in adolescent athletes are unfortunately fairly common. Here’s an interesting recently published scientific study that aims to identify risk factors for stress fractures in adolescent athletes. The authors found several characteristics associated with stress fracture risk: lower than normal body mass index, four weeks or more history of shin splints, minimal involvement in weight training, decreased amount of sleep, daily stress, and low dairy intake.
During the recent US Club Soccer webinar I participated in, I was asked this question by the host:
“What advice would you give to a parent of a youth soccer player regarding being proactive or reactive to injuries and overall health?”
The question above was specific to soccer but the point I make here is applicable to all sports. By far and away the area where we can have the greatest impact with a sport that’s in-season is in monitoring for overuse injuries.