There are over 35 million children and teens engaged in organized sports in the United States. With more than 60% of these participants playing outside the school parents are the driving force in helping these kids play. More importantly, the average family spends over $1,000 per child a year on training aids, sports products and supervision for these activities.
I talked with Dr. Jeffrey M. Mjaanes, MD, a sports medicine specialist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago to ask him about sports youth training
1. Does sports resistance training differ from boys to girls in their teenage years?
Strength or resistance training does not necessarily need to vary based on gender. Strength training is important for boys and girls and should be part of any exercise program, along with aerobic (cardiovascular) training and flexibility. In the pre-teen years, both boys and girls in supervised strength programs can make definite strength gains, mainly by training the muscles more efficiently and “muscle memory”. In the teenage years, when sex hormones such as testosterone are approaching adult levels, strength gains are achieved mainly by increased muscle size. In this older age group, gender differences in strength gains will arise but training can progress equally for both sexes and should be individualized according to each athlete’s goals and training objectives.
2. What are the best things to focus on in preventing injury in youth sports?
Sports injuries are becoming more commonplace in youth as more children are playing more sports at younger ages. Fair play is a key aspect of the game at any level but adhering to the rules and focusing on fair play should be especially emphasized in our young athletes. Adults, especially parents and coaches, need to role-model good behavior for their children. Proper equipment for the sport is paramount. Equipment needs to fit properly, be in adequate condition and should be used only for the sport for which it is intended (no bike helmets on the ski slopes). Off-season, athletes should maintain strength, flexibility and conditioning. In-season, as well as off-season, adequate rest and proper nutrition are key. Finally, athletes, parents and coaches need to know that any pain that persists for more than a few days or is severe enough to affect performance should not be ignored and should be evaluated by a trained health care professional, such as a sports medicine specialist. Early diagnosis and treatment can often prevent worse outcomes and get the athlete back to sport in a timely but safe manner.
Keep your kids safe and remember they are developing adults. Youth sports help develop the body but more importantly, life skills including: self esteem, leadership skills and team building experience.