There’s nothing more heart-breaking for a coach than witnessing a young athlete suffer an injury. Therefore, a proactive approach to mitigating injury risk is a top priority for parents and coaching staff. There are a variety of things that coaches can do to reduce injury risk among youth athletes. For example, programming thorough warm-ups, ensuring training loads are not excessive and implementation of effective strength and conditioning protocols can all contribute to injury prevention. A good understanding of physiology as it pertains to the adolescent athlete should be essential for all coaches working with youth athletes. On the other end of the spectrum, there are certain things that parents can do that may help. Ensuring that their young athlete(s) participate in a variety of sports throughout their youth can go a long way in preventing overuse injuries. What else can parents do?
A new study published ahead of print in the Scandinavian Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport surveyed a sample of adolescent athletes on various health variables to determine if they were associated with injury occurrence. A total of 340 elite young athletes were sent an email questionnaire where they answered questions pertaining to perceived stress, nutrition intake, self-esteem and sleep quality in addition to sport played, injuries sustained and so forth. The email questionnaire was sent once during the fall and once during the spring semesters.
The results showed that many athletes were failing to meet basic nutritional recommendations. For example, 20% of young athletes did not consume enough fruits on a daily basis. Likewise, almost 40% failed to consume the recommended amount of vegetables on a daily basis. Fish intake was also insufficient as 43% reported intakes below the recommended amount. Nearly 20% of the adolescent athletes were not obtaining the recommended duration of sleep on a nightly basis. It turns out that the athletes sleeping at least 8 hours per night had a reduced odds of injury of 61%. In addition, the athletes consuming the recommended nutritional intake had a reduced odds of injury of 64%. Therefore, it appears that parents can also help prevent injuries by ensuring their young athletes are sleeping sufficiently and meeting nutritional guidelines.
Rosen, P., Frohm, A., Kottorp, A., Fridén, C., & Heijne, A. (2016). Too little sleep and an unhealthy diet could increase the risk of sustaining a new injury in adolescent elite athletes. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports.