Managing our Home-Grown Superstars

~By Jonathan Tan

It never ceases to amaze me, the sheer amount of activity and exercise some young athletes are putting themselves through these days. I often feel I spend the majority of my day encouraging people to be more active, so when somebody presents to the clinic describing such copious amounts of activity it’s a completely different challenge. It poses the question – “how much is too much?” Unfortunately, this question is not easily answered.

We recently screened over 35 young footballers from the East Fremantle Under 16’s Program, looking to pick-up any risks they may have for future injury. These boys are in a unique situation where their bodies are continuing to grow while at the same time being placed under high physical demand. Furthermore, many of these players play other sports and do additional exercise in their week.

The most common musculoskeletal deficit we identified was glute weakness, resulting in difficulty controlling hip rotation during single-leg activities. This impairment is a strong risk factor for a number of common conditions in young footballers such as – bone stress injury (osteitis pubis), adductor tendonopathy, patellofemoral pain, anterior hip impingement and lower back pain.

The most common external risk factor we found was overload. Some of these boys are doing over 15 – 20 hours a week of exercise due to multiple sporting commitments and high levels of self-determination. Combine this with multiple strength / flexibility deficits, and we have a problem!

Some key points of advice I can give to any young athletes reading this, or parents of such active children

  • Aim to have at least 1, if not 2 days of complete rest
  • If your sport predominantly involves running and you want to improve your fitness, try to substitute an extra running session with cycling or swimming to give your body a break from so much running.
  • Communicate with your coaches and Physiotherapist if you feel an injury arising, or that your load is too much. Injuries that are caught early are much easier to fix!

If you would like to book in for a full screening, or a more specific sporting problem, please call us on 9438 3444.