Every fall I speak with a number of parents centered around one specific issue: ACL Injuries.
Around Long Island, the end of the fall season tends to see a massive increase in the injury, predominantly to female athletes in soccer.
While ACL injuries are increasing around the country there are ways to decrease the risks and recover to normal levels long term.
First the issues
- Too much of a good thing is bad: While athletes love the sports they play, too much competitive anything will lead to overuse and burnout, and the coaches of these athletes are the biggest culprits. They tell athletes and parents that they need to get to every practice and every single game across the calendar year, and this constant chase for more competition and development ravages the body.
- Increased scholarship stress: With more athletes chasing after the same few scholarships, competition has risen. This increases families feeling that they need to do extra in order to succeed. In reality, most of the stress applied is unfounded. Coaches like multi-sport athletes and want a well-rounded student who is diligent but works hard beyond the sport. In chasing scholarships, families often run an athlete into injuries that can be avoided with more knowledge.
- Too much skill. Not enough fitness: Playing the sport more and developing better skills absolutely helps make a better player, but a body that is highly skilled but under fit is a body that can do more than it should. Executing skills and minutes on the field without the right fitness will lead to damage down the line.
How do we fix this
- Take time away: Your organization and skills coaches may hate this because it takes away from the money you spend with them, but a 12-month program that doesn’t prioritize strength and fitness development with a strength and conditioning coach for 8-16 weeks every year is doing harm to an athlete’s development. In the short term, you may think you are losing out, but in the long run, you always win.
- Work on your body: The analogy I always use is that “You can be the best go-cart driver in the world, if you want to race NASCAR you need a bigger engine”. Building a bigger, stronger more resilient body will give you access to skills and abilities that you cannot achieve without it. No amount of shooting, dribbling, cone work, etc will improve performance as much as improving your sprinting, jumping, and core strength.
- Self-Care Matters: This one is tough for lots of people let alone young athletes. Self-care is sleep, nutrition, rest, and recovery. All of these things can have a massive impact on someone’s abilities. Here is how I look at this: your physical ability is a bucket, some people have bigger buckets than others, but we all can improve ours through work and effort. Our daily and weekly work is the water that fills this bucket, so each day and week there is a set limit to what everyone can handle in that moment. How well you sleep and eat helps to expand your bucket, and empty some of the water. The recovery options we choose can help us empty the bucket even faster, and rest, in the form of targeted off days can help us to maximize these options further.
It is hard to gauge the best course of action for most athletes and families because this is usually their first time dealing with coaches, scholarships, injuries, doctors, physical therapists, strength coaches, etc.
This becomes daunting in the face of all we do and the limited time we have to do it for an athlete. Those windows of opportunity go by quickly.
So the best advice I can say, is to build out the team you think is the best for helping you and your athlete moving through their career and sit down to lay out what the expectations are and what can happen.
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Hope we helped!