The development of young athletes is a systematic, complex process, which requires a long-term plan. Parents and young athletes should realize that continual sport-specific participation alone, will not always create the needed catalyst to develop athletes to their highest potential. With young athletes training and competing as they grow physically, finding ways to help them to perform well and stay healthy is essential.
As young athletes train and compete throughout their peak growth spurt, (average age for girls is 12-14 and boys is 14-16) an awareness is needed of how training affects their bodies due to the physical and hormonal changes that are occurring. As the bones and muscles begin to lengthen, the law of physics comes into play. When bones elongate, this creates longer lever arms, increasing the force that is being placed on their also lengthening muscles. Due to the increase in the force needed to move the longer lever arm, along with hormonal changes, the development of muscle strength increases, in boys more than girls due to testosterone levels. To increase the cross-sectional area of a muscle, which is where the strength comes from, it takes time. With sport specific training only, the muscles are often strained, trying to keep up with the forces being placed upon them. Soft tissue injuries such as hamstring, hip flexor, and adductor (groin) strains, and Osgood-Schlatters (a repetitive use knee injury) are common during this time
With year-round training occurring, bringing in components such as body-weight resistance training that focuses on high-risk areas has been shown to improve a young athlete’s physical literacy, which often leads to improved performance, while helping protect against injuries.
With most athletes continuing to train during this time, many find themselves training through pain. This is not a best practice approach. If your athlete reports a soft tissue injury in the hip flexor, quadriceps, groin, or hamstring area, caution is warranted as a grade 1 strain takes 2-3 weeks to heal and a grade 2 strain can take four to eight weeks to heal. Initial time off is warranted and will most likely shorten the healing process, especially if you are in pre-season or off-season play. If you are taking time off, this means from sport-specific training, not recovery training. Using KT Tape to support soft tissue injuries while in the time off stage helps to decrease the pain an athlete experiences during daily activities such as walking. Aerobic training is recommended which can include walking, riding a bike, or swimming. This should be done without pain to the injured muscle along with targeted body weight exercises.
As the muscle injury begins to improve and an athlete can walk and jog without pain and limited return to play is recommended, KT Tape is a tool that is very effective in supporting the muscle as an athlete begins to increase their training load. Targeted strengthening and stretching exercises should be continued. KT Tape supports the strengthening process; it does not replace it. KT Tape can be discontinued when an athlete is training and competing without pain. If athletes are allergic to adhesives, then other alternatives will need to be determined.
If you are looking to find a holistic way to help your child train all aspects of the game with a focus on staying healthy, the Ultimate Virtual Soccer Training for Female athletes led by pro soccer player Alex Kimball is the place to start. We will help female athletes integrate body-weighted strength training within their training along with other aspects that are often missed. This will help improve their performance and make wise decisions along their training journey. To learn more click here.