The pressure to perform can sneak up on young athletes in the prime of their growth spurts. As their bodies develop and physical abilities grow, the risk of injury grows as well; they keys are taking the right steps to prevent injury and, when they do happen, understanding and being diligent about recovery and rehabilitation.
Ron Langley, a Maryland-based physical therapist specializing in sports assessment, suggests that high schools need more pre-conditioning and flexibility programs to provide injury prevention for athletes. Unfortunately, that solution won’t be instituted overnight. In the meantime, he offers advice for athletes.
“There are strength and conditioning programs that are outside of the schools and I think it’s always a good idea to go to someone that is experienced in that area. All sports require a physical, and so during that physical some things may be highlighted that the parent can be told, ‘This is an area of concern,’ ” he points out. “Say there is a weak muscle group or there maybe a hyper-mobile joint. If those things are picked up during that physical, the suggestion would be go to a physical therapist, and especially a sports medicine orthopedic-type physical therapist. Then we can help with strengthening and flexibility before the sport or before injury actually occurs.”
High school athletes are playing more than ever, competing in various sports year-round. It’s imperative that you take the proper measures to protect your bodies. Gone are the days when aches and pains were simply considered “growing pains.”
“Research has shown that a lot of those kids, when they are going through those growing adolescent years, they’re more prone or susceptible to injuries. Your bones are not as mature and so some of the stress that is being placed on that can lead to injury,” Langley said.
Sometimes injury is simply inevitable; it’s a part of sports. When it happens, it’s another kind of test for the athlete.
“I’ve found [with] very competitive athletes, 99 percent of the time their attitude is to push, push, push. Most of those cases you have to actually slow down the athlete rather than speed them up,” Langley said.
Bethesda-Chevy Chase senior All- Met soccer selection Hannah Levin, tore her ACL as she assisted on the game-winning goal during the state semifinal in November.
She missed the Barons’ penalty-kick win in the Maryland 4A final a few days later, but she expects to be close to 100 percent by the time she takes the field next season at Williams College. And she is has managed to find the silver lining that came with her injury.
“I want to come back stronger than I was before,” she says, “ Improve in areas that I normally don’t have a chance to improve on because I was just so focused on playing, so you don’t get to improve those little things. The little things that I never got to heal are having a chance, giving my body a break. Actually, I wish it wasn’t quite so long a break, but I think giving your body a break is an important thing.”
Hannah, who’s been playing soccer since she was 4, figures ACL injuries are just a part of girls’ soccer. At least five of her teammates have dealt with the injury. The same mind-set that has allowed her to become a successful soccer player is the same attitude she applies to physical therapy.
“Being a competitive athlete, I know that so much of your training is what you do when people aren’t around. Yeah, it’s easy to do all the physical therapy exercises when you’re at physical therapy and they’re telling you what to do. I think, because I’m a competitive athlete, I know that when you say, ‘OK, you should do this twice a day,’ I actually do it twice a day. I know that even if no one is around, it’s important for my own recovery to be doing it,” she said.
Part of being an athlete is capitalizing on opportunities. You scout your opponents to find out where you have the advantage. Injury prevention and recovery is no different. You can seize the opportunity to prevent injury by not cheating yourself and focusing on technique. And in the event an injury does occur, use the opportunity to make the most of the recovery process.
There’s no reason or time to crawl into a hole and sulk. The games go on, so take the right steps to get back on the field.
About Transition Game
Monica McNutt was an All-Met basketball player at Holy Cross Academy who went on to star for the Georgetown women’s team. She will be offering advice to high school athletes who are looking to make the leap to college sports
Got a question for Monica, or an idea she can use for a future post? Leave it here in the comments, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @__MCM__.
The dual-sport dilemma(Feb. 20, 2012)
Making the most of your college experience (Feb. 14, 2012)
Handling your parents and coaches (Feb. 7, 2012)
Dealing with that special breed of fans: Your parents (Jan. 24, 2012)
Advice for the young star athlete (Jan. 17, 2012)
Offseason is right time to get with the program (Jan. 3, 2012)
Managing to stay close to the game (Dec. 20, 2011)
Leadership, Tebow-style (Dec. 13, 2011)
The importance of attitude (Dec. 6, 2011)
Fine-tuning your “mistake response” (Nov. 22, 2011)
Looking beyond the stat sheet (Nov. 15, 2011)
Battling the “dumb jock” stereotype (Nov. 8, 2011)
Taking advantage of your athletic resume (Nov. 1, 2011)
College recruiting: Finding a program that fits you (Oct. 25, 2011)
Secrets to success: Food and rest (Oct. 11, 2011)
Introducing “Transition Game” (Oct. 4, 2011)