Overuse sports injuries are nothing new. It is not uncommon to see your favorite football player tear their ACL or favorite pitcher tear a rotator cuff in professional sports. Still, these injuries are becoming more and more common among youth athletes, especially spinal injuries. Spinal injuries can lead to lifelong pain and injuries. It is also common for youth athletes to specialize in one sport and train for upwards of 10 hours per week during their season, which can onset injury in young athletes due to overtraining. Youth athletes are also more inclined than ever to overtrain themselves because of collage recruitment and how competitive youth sports have become.
The increase in volume and intensity of youth sports cause athletes to have overuse injuries. Young athletes are also more susceptible to overuse injuries in sports due to their immaturity in muscle and body development. The spine is a crucial element of the body that connects many muscles to the brain and transfers a lot of force from the lower body to the upper body or vice versa. Considering the spine is an epicenter in the body, it is most important to keep healthy and prevent injury for many youth sports.
Another of the primary causes of overuse spine injuries in youth athletes is the lack of development in certain muscle groups. The specific area that usually affects the spine is the lack of core strength to support the muscles that surround the spine. Havard medical states’ core strength is one of the keys to just staying fit and avoiding injuring all of the body (https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/avoid-back-pain-and-improve-balance-by-strengthening-core-muscles). Neuromuscular expert Dr. Robert Hammill also said, “The failure to absorb the forces of gait with weak lower extremity muscles may impose a high demand on the lumbar spine stabilizing muscles during gait and exercise” (Hammill et al., 454). Core strength is a crucial part of injury prevention in all athletes. The core is especially important to youth athletes because their bodies, and core muscles, are not fully developed, making the spine more susceptible to injuries.
Athletes also need to do other things to keep their bodies healthy such as diet, avoiding overtraining, and proper stretching. Diet is important because youth athletes do not always have the most suitable diets getting all the proper vitamins, minerals, and calories necessary for them to recovery properly. Proper recovery prevents injury. Youth athletes often get overtrained by their coaches or themselves, trying to maximizing their performance. This increase in training usually results in athletes having a decrease in performance and can lead to injury. Athletes also need to properly warm up cool down and stretch to prevent small and large overuse injuries.
Lastly, the most critical part is education and awareness for both coaches, parents, and athletes. Most injuries are preventable by incorporating proper stretching, diet, and core work into athletes’ daily routine.