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Children's Health

9 Tips to Cut Injury in Young Athletes

To Stay in the Game in the Long Run, Child and Teen Athletes Need Time Off
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 5, 2007 -- Young athletes may need a little adult guidance to thrive on and off the playing field, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

The AAP's Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness notes that kids and teens are increasingly involved in sports, and some young athletes are overdoing it.

Training intensely can lead to injury and burnout. So to keep young athletes in the game, the AAP offers four practical tips for young athletes and their parents, doctors, and coaches.

The tips, published in the June edition of the journal Pediatrics, are as follows:

  1. Keep workouts interesting, with age-appropriate games and training, to keep practice fun.
  2. Take time off from organized or structured sports participation one to two days per week to allow the body to rest or participate in other activities.
  3. Permit longer scheduled breaks from training and competition every two to three months while focusing on other activities and cross-training to prevent loss of skill or conditioning.
  4. Focus on wellness and teaching athletes to be in tune with their bodies for cues to slow down or alter their training methods.
  5. Encourage the athlete to play on only one team during a season.
  6. Don't increase weekly training time, repetitions of exercises, or distance by more than 10% each week.
  7. Encourage the athlete to take at least two to three months away from a specific sport during the year.
  8. Athletes, players, and coaches should learn about appropriate nutrition and fluids, sport safety, and avoiding overtraining.
  9. If the athlete complains of nonspecific muscle or joint problems, fatigue, or poor academic performance, be alert for possible burnout, which may include physical symptoms like fatigue and lack of enthusiasm about practice or competition.

After all, if an athlete pushes himself or herself too far, he or she may end up on the sidelines with an injury that lasts for weeks or months.



Pushing the Limits

The council also offers advice on marathons and triathlons, athletes who play the same sport on more that one team, and athletes who play several different sports.

The council states that endurance events such as marathons and triathlons may be fine for young athletes, as long as the events are modified to be age appropriate, and the athlete is healthy and enjoys the activity.

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