4 Points Physicians Should Cover During Meetings With Coaches

Orthopedic Sports Medicine

While professional team coaches understand the best practices for keeping adult athletes healthy, youth coaches are often parent volunteers with little knowledge about appropriate practice techniques. Sports medicine practices and physicians can hold seminars or workshops for local coaches on the best habits for injury prevention among young athletes. Here are four topics physicians can cover during coaches meetings and seminars on proper training, concussion testing and rehabilitation techniques.

1. Over conditioning during training.
As young athletes still have growth plates on their joints, extensive conditioning increases the risk of joint being damaged. This means football players running hills or bleachers for extra strength and endurance are more prone to joint damage than players who spend extra time scrimmaging. Additionally, athletes doing plyometrics or jumping exercises to strengthen muscles are also placing a great amount of stress on their joints. "The weak spot isn't in the muscle, it's the anchor point, or joint," says David Marshall, MD, medical director of the sports medical program at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. "If the weak spot is in the anchor point, that's where the injury occurs."

2. Preseason neurocognitive testing.
In the past, if an athlete suffered from a concussion, coaches and physicians gauged the athlete's return to play by the disappearance of symptoms, says Joshua Siegel, MD, director of sports medicine at Access Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics in Exeter, N.H. However, physicians today know an athlete is not necessarily healed from a concussion because his or her symptoms disappear. Incurring a second concussion before the first has healed could lead to cognitive disability, memory loss and depression. Dr. Siegel recommends young athletes should go through preseason neurocognitive testing in order to assess their "normal" level of functioning against their "post-concussion" functioning, gauging whether it is safe to return to play.

3. Rehab with other athletes. Going through rehabilitation can be difficult for young athletes, especially when they fear they will not be able to return to their activity. Coaches and physicians should urge injured athletes to complete rehabilitation in a facility with several other athletes at varying stages in the rehab process, says David Geier, MD, director of MUSC Sports Medicine in Charleston, S.C. This way, the athletes can see others farther along in the process, which can encourage them to push through the more difficult early stages of rehabilitation.

4. Rehab cardiovascular training. When completing rehabilitation for an injury, the athlete should do cardiovascular training as well as muscle strengthening exercises as soon as possible, says Dr. Geier. Cardiovascular rehab decreases the lag time between when the athlete has clearance for returning to play and when he or she is actually prepared to return at full strength. "If an athlete hasn't run in six months, it will take a while to get back into shape," says Dr. Geier. "The key is to be working on that all along."

Read other coverage on youth sports medicine:

- ImPACT Assessment Evaluates Cognitive, Physical Concussion Symptoms

- How Physicians Can Help Decrease Injuries in Young Athletes: Q&A With Rothman Institute's Michael Ciccotti

- 5 Strategies for Preventing Overuse Injuries in Youth Sports Medicine

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