By Dr. Katie Greeley B.S. D.C.
Young Sports Athletes
In the world we live in today, it seems that my office is seeing more and more young children with numerous injuries due to sports. Our kids are entering into a world where the competition starts earlier, and the kids are involved in many different kinds of sports some by the age of four.
Being involved in sports as a young child myself, I understand the importance to be the best that you can be, but not at the expense of your body. There are many things a young athlete can do to improve their athleticism in a natural, and healthy way.
There are some great supplementation designed with the child athlete in mind that give the proper amino acids, vitamins and minerals that a young athlete may deplete quicker. Most of us can turn on the TV today and see a professional athlete talk about getting adjusted, but 20 years ago this was unheard of.
Alternative Methods to Improve Child Athlete Performance
Today professionals are turning to alternative methods to improve their performance and to give them an edge over the competition. You may ask why would I even consider coming in for a sports evaluation if my child does not have an injury. In the recent years there has been some research done with the child athlete in mind.
In 1991, 50 athletes were tested and the results were published in The Journal of Chiropractic Research and Investigation which concluded that athletes under chiropractic care after 12 weeks exhibited 30% improvement in the speed of reaction compared to the group with no chiropractic which had only 1% improvement.
In another study, on university baseball players, they found that those under chiropractic care “showed significant improvement in capillary count” which leads to healthy oxygenation of the blood supply.
As a chiropractor and a parent of athletes, I understand the importance of making sure that their body is working at their full potential with first eliminating the nerve interference from the spine to the muscles as well as making sure that they are maintaining a healthy diet and are performing proper warm ups. While learning how to play the sport is vital, proper preparation for these sports is also vital to build longevity.
In my office I try and encourage my young athletes to follow the ACA’s guidelines as well as a few of my own, which can include the following:
- Wear proper equipment. This is essential because the equipment necessary for each particular sport is vital to protection of the young bodies.
- Eat healthy meals. Your energy comes from the food you put into your body. Athletes need carbohydrates to give them energy and replenish those that are lost. The best forms of carbohydrates come from foods like fruits and vegetables, and pastas, not high fat foods such as those from fast food restaurants.
- Maintain healthy weight. It is important for the young adolescent to understand how to maintain their weight whether it is keeping their body slim or bulking up. We must teach our athletes how to properly stay slim with a good diet and if they need to gain weight for contact sports how to effectively do that without jeopardizing their health.
- Drink water. As the young athlete sweats the water is lost from their body so athletes should be consuming the 5-8oz daily even when they are not practicing so they can avoid dehydration in the warm months.
Drink Sports drinks. Most sports drinks are good as especially with long duration sports, but avoid the drinks with dyes, artificial sweeteners which are known as neurotoxins and energy drinks which can speed up the heart rate due to high levels of caffeine and also strip calcium out of growing bones.
- Athletes need calcium. There are many sources of calcium, milk, supplements, and green leafy vegetables. Calcium is essential to muscles as well as bones. Most leg cramping is due to and unbalance in the calcium in an athlete’s system.
- Proper warm up. So many times I have seen kids go out to play a game without stretching. The warm up is the time to get the muscles ready for extraneous exercise. Most sports have times that the child will run with quick spurts, improper warm-up can lead to sprains and strains.
- Get plenty of rest. It is essential for the young athlete to get rest since the body will repair itself during this time.
- Avoid lifting weights. So many young athletes are encouraged by their coaches to bulk up with contact sports and they will do it with weights. Weights at a young age can lead to damage to the growth plates as well as an imbalance in muscle tone leading to a greater chance of sprains and strains.
- R.I.C.E.-this pneumonic is essential to remember after an injury. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. All of this will decrease swelling and help numb the pain until you can consult with your health care provider.
Encourage your young athletes to follow the above guidelines and also add the fact that sports are to be fun and learning can happen with winning just as much as with losing. Teach them how to be great winners and how to learn from a great loss. Treat injuries immediately and teach them how to prevent them too.
A coach once told me that practice does not make perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect. Teach your child not to just go through the motions of a good warm up but why it is essential to their performance.
About the Author:
Dr. Katie Greeley is a chiropractor and a mother of two living in Simi Valley, California. She has taken extra courses on pediatrics above and beyond the regular doctorate degree. Dr. Greeley is the owner of the practice United Family Chiropractic is located in Wood Ranch at 1070 Country Club Dr. West #D Simi Valley, Ca. Her office can be reached at 805-522-2324 for further questions.
American Chiropractic Association, “Chiropractors offer tips to keep your young athlete healthy and fit,” www.amerchiro.org
Mouch, Lauro A. “Chiropractic effects on athletic ability,” The Journal of chiropractic research and investigation, 1991, 6:84-87
Schwartzbauer J, Kolber J, Schwartzbauer, DC, Hart, JDC, Zhang J. Paper; “Athletic performance and physiological measures in baseball players following upper cervical chiropractic care: a pilot study”
The Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research 1997: 1(4): 7