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Youth Sports Performance

Do you have a child who is an athlete? At PREP Performance Center, we are dedicated to helping athletes of all levels reach their optimum level of physical performance. Whether you have a high-schooler who’s a swimming star or a Little Leaguer who is quickly picking up batting techniques, our Chicago physical therapists can help with improving technique, healing any current injuries, and preventing additional injuries from occurring in the future. To learn more about our youth sports performance programs, contact our Chicago physical therapy office today!

Why are these programs important?

At PREP Performance Center, we understand that youth athletes are still developing in their skills. It wouldn’t make sense to design the same treatment plans for both youth and adult athletes, or even for youth athletes of different age groups. Children have different biomechanics than adults because they are still growing – both physically and mentally. Each youth sports performance program is unique, taking into account the child’s age, level of physical activity, and continuing physical and mental development.

Our sport-specific academy training programs prioritize important aspects of youth athletic training, such as:

  • Athletic development
  • Strength improvement
  • Power improvement
  • Speed and body awareness

The goal of these programs is to create a pre-season environment where youth athletes can enhance their skills and techniques, in order to ensure a safe and successful sports season. Our highly trained Chicago physical therapists will assist your child with improvements in strength, stability, and body awareness, in addition to working on jumping, landing, and cutting techniques. Perhaps most importantly, the techniques your child learns will significantly reduce the injury risk of ACL injuries, non-contact injuries, and overuse injuries, such as shin splints or stress fractures.

INJURY PREVENTION

Equipment

All players should wear the following equipment and follow these tips for proper fit:

  • Shoes should fit properly and are laced tight each time.

  • Appropriate shoes (and soles) should be worn for the field surface being played on.

  • Shin guards should end just below the knee and fit snuggly around the ankle bone.

  • Socks should completely cover the shin guards.

  • Soccer balls should be properly inflated, water-resistant and the correct size for the age group.

While some equipment is optional, players can consider the following to prevent against injury:

  • Goalkeepers should wear padded gloves with finger-protectors.

  • Goalkeepers should wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, possibly with elbow and knee padding.

  • Mouth guard is an option to protect teeth, lips and tongue.

  • Jewelry should not be worn – except for a medical alert bracelet.

Warm Up

Warm-up is critical - Players should spend at least 20 minutes stretching and warming up at the beginning of practice or before a game. Guided warm-ups prepare the body for more strenuous activities and may include a variety of exercises meant to stimulate the body and simulate game-play skills. 

 

Start Slow
Begin the warmup with low intensity movements like jogging, skipping and shuffling side-to-side. Increase the heart rate gradually to be ready for the practice or game to start.

Stretch
Stretching is extremely important. Stretching should be dynamic, not done standing still. Incorporate full range of motion stretches into low-intensity movements, like walking or jogging.

Include a Ball
Integrate ball skills into the warmup, such as dribbling at slower speeds. This is an opportunity to work on technical skills and become more acquainted with the ball.

Progression of Activities

A typical warmup progresses from linear to multi-directional activities. Initial warmup exercises should have players moving along a straight line. Once muscles have begun to warm, exercises can incorporate changes of direction to increase the intensity and effectiveness of the warmup.

The warmup should finish with accelerations, sprints or high- intensity changes of direction to simulate actual game-play situations to make sure the player is prepared for the game or practice session

Strengthening

Training and strengthening will enhance the body’s natural protection systems, especially for ankles and knees. Muscles around the joints can be strengthened through consistent practice of specific training exercises, like walking lunges, single toe raises and single leg hops. The affected muscles stabilize the joint and reduce the risk of injury. The upper body can be strengthened to help protect players during challenges and shielding without sacrificing speed or agility.

Recovery

Recovery is usually the period between the end of one practice and the start of the next. Sleep, nutrition, and hydration should make up the foundation of an athlete’s recovery to counteract fatigue, reduce the risk of injury, and help drive the body’s adaptive responses to exercise. There are a variety of recovery interventions available that can be utilized by an athlete to help boost their recovery process.

ACTIVE RECOVERY

Involves low to moderate-intensity exercise that can be carried out after practice and games (also referred to as “cooling down”) or be a separate bout of physical activity held on a rest day. The duration of active recovery can be 15 to 30 minutes of land-based or water-based exercise, or a combination of the two. Active recovery on land can be continuous light aerobic work, or light resistance training – such as body weight strength exercises – all of which can be completed outdoors or at a local gym. Active recovery in water can include activities, such as swimming or simulated running in-place or jogging along the length of the pool.

FOAM ROLLING

An emerging recovery method with several proposed physiological effects, similar to those of massage, that may assist in recovery and reduce muscle soreness. During foam rolling, individuals use their own body mass on the foam roller to exert pressure on the affected muscle group. A standard foam rolling protocol can be 20 minutes of foam rolling, performing different exercises targeting the muscle groups most used in soccer including: hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals, groin and calves. For each muscle group, roll as smoothly as possible for two 45-second bouts on both the right and left legs.

HYDROTHERAPY

Also known as water immersion recovery, hydrotherapy consists of covering part of the body, or the whole body, in water. Community pools and showers at home both provide adequate means of utilizing hydrotherapy. Simply being submerged waist deep in a pool allows hydrostatic pressure to act on the body by displacing fluid from the lower body to the upper body, which is purported to enhance recovery. Another hydrotherapy recovery technique is contrasting water temperature, which consists of alternating immersion in cold and hot water and can be easily done in a shower at home. Simply alternate between cold and hot temperatures for 1 to 2-minute intervals for 2 to 3 cycles, ensuring water is in contact with the lower back and legs.

DYNAMIC & STATIC STRETCHING

Two styles of stretching that are frequently incorporated into warm-up and cool-down periods, respectively. Dynamic stretching is performed by moving a limb in a slow and controlled manner through its full available range of motion. The motion can be repeated several times with small increases in the speed of movement as the available range of motion increases. Static stretching entails selecting a target muscle that is slowly lengthened and held in a comfortable range for 15 to 30 seconds. As the position is held, the feeling of the stretch diminishes, and the athlete can move gently into a deeper stretch and hold again.

Sleep

  • Sleep has various physiological and cognitive benefits.

  • Quality ‘deep’ sleep can aid restoration of energy levels and repair of exercise-induced damage.

  • Sleep quality can be helped by quality protein intake, adequate hydration and sleep-promoting foods.

  • Sleep deprivation may have potential effects on strength, power, endurance, reaction times and cognitive function.

  • Similarly, poor sleep can lead to immunosuppression, lack of energy, growth and repair (needed for adaptation). As a result, there is greater susceptibility to infection.

INJURY RECOVERY

ANKLE

Ankle sprain, the most common injury for soccer players, is an injury to the ligaments of the ankle. Ligaments connect bones and provide stability for the body’s joints. The ligaments on the outside of the ankle are injured when the foot rolls inward. Ankle sprains can occur when a player is running, cutting, kicking, tackling or being tackled, or landing from a jump.

Symptoms of an ankle sprain include:

  • Pain, especially while walking
  • Swelling
  • Bruising

Initial treatment for an ankle sprain is RICE therapy:

  • REST – keep off the injured ankle
  • ICE – apply ice to the area for twenty minutes every hour; place a towel between the skin and ice, to prevent burns
  • COMPRESSION – use a wrap to stabilize the injury; start at the toes and wrap up the leg past the ankle
  • ELEVATION – raise the leg to help with swelling and pain; when elevating an injured ankle, remember "toes above the nose"
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