This time of year when temperatures hover around zero, it’s a great time for our young athletes to take the season off and rest their muscles. It’s crucial because studies prove when kids play sports 9 or more months a year — or play more than 5 days a week — their rate for an overuse injury increases significantly.
We see so many of these injuries around this time from a variety of sports, from swimming to baseball to soccer. In fact, about 75 percent of our patients in our sports medicine clinic are suffering from overuse or overload injuries to their muscles, tendons or even growth plates.
This week, I spoke with 1590 WAKR morning show host Ray Horner about this topic. During their rest period, kids can stay in shape by joining a conditioning program that includes core and bodyweight exercises.
Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion.
DR. CONGENI: Hey, Ray. How are ya?
HORNER: I’m doin’ pretty darn well today.
DR. CONGENI: Good.
HORNER: What do you have for us?
DR. CONGENI: … This time of year we see so many overuse injuries. Seventy-five percent of our patients are overload, overuse [injuries], particularly in pediatric sports medicine. You know, [our PTs asked me to] please mention that athletes need to think about rest, a season of the year to rest.
Um, Ray, you know, this has been studied 5 years ago, 7 years ago, and the studies proved that if kids took, you know, 1 season of the year off, [there’d be a reduction in these types of injuries].
When they play sports 9 or more months a year, the overuse injury rate, uh, increases significantly. If they play sports more than 5 days a week, the overuse injury rate, uh, increases significantly.
And, this would be the time of year for a lot of our [kids in] summer sports and fall sports to take a season of the year, 3 months, and really put their time into a conditioning program, a core strengthening program … .
Even the professional athletes rest. This is really the biggest problem. If you walked around our sports medicine clinic, you’d see 6th grade, 7th grade, 8th grade kids [injured from] playing sports year-round, and it’s a bunch of sports: swimming, baseball, soccer, wrestling.
All those kids in our office that are playing year-round, we would have the most significant reduction of injuries and the reduction of burnout if we could get those kids to understand that taking some time of the year off to condition is really okay. It’s good stuff. And, that’s what really a lot of our PTs wanted me to mention this morning.
HORNER: Well … I think you’re dead-on there, Joe, and I know research and statistics tell you that. But, you know, you work that same muscle over and over again in the same way it’s just like stretching a rubber band the same way every time, it’s eventually gonna break.
DR. CONGENI: You got it. … The muscles, the tendons and one more thing that’s in the picture of these younger athletes are what are called the growth plates, and you know, every so often I talk to you guys about the growth plate injuries.
Everybody’s kinda looking up to the professional athletes and following what they do in a lot of the areas that lead to injury. Here’s an area that’s really injury protection. These people go home and take 2 or 3 months or more off, and that’s the one thing that we don’t mimic.
As parents, I understand, you know, I told you before it’s a seductive thing with your kid. [They think], gosh if we play year-round, we have the better chance to, you know, be on this travel team or be on this AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) team or be on this JO (Junior Olympic) team. But, taking a season of the year off from the standpoint of both mental health and physical health is probably the best thing you can do for your kids.
HORNER: So, if you’re playing a particular sport in the fall, I mean, weight training, running, what would you suggest then to the parents listening [to keep them] physically active, but maybe they don’t like another sport, for example. Get into the weight room, is that okay, Joe?
DR. CONGENI: Well, let’s take for instance soccer, so you said a fall sport. They played outdoors. They’re gonna play spring outdoors. They’re gonna play summer, then take the winter off.
Conditioning programs for kids, 6th to 8th grade, in that age range, let’s target that group particularly, taking that period of time to work on a core program that starts with bodyweight exercises and then maybe progresses to where if they’re really motivated, they may even get into somebody to teach them the right exercises they could be doing with weights and introducing weights gradually. That would be a great off-season winter program.
Remember, when you’re greater than 9th grade, the kids go in the weight room and they lift on their own. When you do that with kids younger than 9th grade, you really run the risk of them getting injured trying to get better because they may not know exactly what to be doing weight- and strength-wise.
So, bodyweight exercises and core exercises are a great way to spend the winter for those kids that play fall and summer sports.
HORNER: Alright. Great information, good insight, Joe. Thanks for the education, my friend.
DR. CONGENI: Alright, Ray. Have a great rest of the week.
HORNER: You too. Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital, joining us live this morning.