I’ve been practicing PT since 2002 and the biggest change that I have seen is in the age of my clients. More and more I work with young people, age 11-17 and it is usually due to a sports-related injury. The kids that specialize in one sport and play 12 months of the year are at risk for overuse injuries, pulled muscles and ligament strains and tears. These kids are great to work with as they have youth on their side and tend to heal very quickly. They are also motivated to get better so they can get back on the field, diamond or court.
So how can these young athletes prevent injury? A proper warm-up consisting of dynamic stretching and exercises to prepare muscles to work, a good diet and plenty of hydration and cross-training. Make sure that kids have time to be kids. The games and activities that kids participate in with their friends are great for using their muscles in diverse ways. Biking to the park, swimming at the local rec center, throwing a ball if they are used to kicking a ball and visa versa are just a few examples of what young athletes can do to stay healthy.
Dynamic stretching is an effective way to warm up muscles, as it incorporates stretching, balance and movement. Coaches are encouraged to replace traditional stretching with this. It warms up the muscles that are most prone to pulls and strains including hamstrings, hip flexors, quads, calf muscles, inner thigh muscles and the glutes. Here are some dynamic stretches that you can start with. PT’s can help develop a more involved routine too!