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Being a year-round athlete demands preparation

Young athletes who may dream of becoming professional athletes, enjoying popularity and financial freedom must be aware of the high stakes and demands placed on them physically and psychologically. A report done by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in 2011 showed a 400% increase in the number of youth sports related injuries admitted at the Hospital, specifically knee injuries. The findings of the study hinted to the increase in year-round sports activities and competition as a reason for the increase. Organizations such as Changing the Game Project and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education have advocated for young athletes to practice multiple sports and not specialize in one sport that may put constant pressure on growing limbs and joints through clinics, camps, competitions, etc. The Children's Hospital has promoted an array of knee strengthening exercises in a program called Ready. Set. Prevent. that can prevent ligament injuries that can debilitate a young athlete's confidence and normal development. The exercises can be done as a regular workout and combine stretching with knee strengthening and explosion (plyometric exercises).

NFL Hall of Fame running back Roger Craig said once, "A Healthy body is a body that stays in the lineup." Many other athletes have professed the longevity of their careers and their performance to proper maintenance and care of the most important parts of their body like knee ligaments, hamstrings, ankles, etc. The immense feel of productivity from naturally genetic abilities is only one piece of the total presence of an athlete. The true test of an athlete though, especially at the professional level, is the consistency of performance. A case study from Leeds Metropolitan University on Coping in Professional Sport shows that "chronic stressors"--media pressure, organizational factors, travel, competitive expectations, coaching communication, distractions can affect an athlete's productivity and risk injury and psychological damage in competition. Young athletes are unaware of many of these factors until they are confronted with an injury and the reality of life without sport but the information is available and can be useful when applied to their daily workout, school schedules.

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