Dr. James Andrews is an orthopedic surgeon, sports injury consultant and author of Any Given Monday – Sports Injuries and How to Prevent Them, for Athletes, Parents, and Coaches. In this webinar, he and Carl Lewis discuss the rising trends of sports injuries in our youth.
“The No. 1 risk factor is year-round playing of a sport. It starts with minor injuries, and by the time they are in high school, it turns up as a serious injury.” Dr. Andrews estimates he’s treating four times as many overuse injuries as he did in 2000.
We also held a live Q&A with Carl. Here’s the content from that part of the webinar.
My kids want to run what I think is too many miles. Are there some suggestions for physical age and running age that will support healthy progression and avoid over-mileage by overly ambitious young distance runners / families?
Our kids need to not overdo it. This is a common issue, especially with cross-country athletes. Overtraining puts them at risk for injury, either due to fatigue or pure stress on their bone structure. Dr. Andrews mentioned that stress fractures in co-ed cross country runners are one of the most frequent injuries he treats. This is because their growth plates (the areas of growing tissue near the end of long bones in the body) haven’t completely sealed yet.
Carl Comment: “People need to listen and keep track of their body. Soreness or pain is a signal. We have a tendency to “run through it” or want to keep feeling that runner’s high. We say, “I can’t miss a day”. Yes, you can. It’s OK to take time off, rest and recover.”
Distance runners, start carefully and increase your mileage slowly. Over the summer, as an example, an experienced cross-country runner might run 5 miles/day, then do a long run of 10 miles once a week. This can progress each month. Listen to your body.
What age is safe to introduce weights?
The key to this answer is physical maturity because you want to prevent joint injury. A good rule of thumb would be to wait until a young person has gone through puberty to introduce weights. Before then, use body weight only. Once puberty is evident, you can add weights slowly and progressively but limit them to 1/3 of total body weight. Again, the idea is to be careful. Listen to your body.
This is a time when kids can learning good running mechanics and jumping skills. They pick up these things quickly at a younger age. People want to get strong so fast but as we heard from Dr. Andrews, poor biomechanics are the #1 factor causing injury! So we can teach them good mechanics and let their bodies catch up.
Carl comment: “When I was young I didn’t lift weights. I worked on my running and jumping mechanics. Even though I wasn’t very good and wasn’t winning, the mechanics were there. So when my physiology caught up with my skills, I started to do really well.”
Good mechanics are always going to help you and they’re never going to hurt you.
How many days a week should a 15-year old lift weights?
Similar to the answers above, too much stress too soon is a problem because of growth plate issues. Consider twice a week for strength training.
Carl Comment: “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. You have an entire career to get strong. My body got stronger as I matured. My Personal Best in the long jump happened when I was 30 years old. When I left high school I weighed 155 pounds, at just under 6’. Correct mechanics and correct movement are what I focused on early.”
What’s the best way as sprinter to train for large PRs later (in my 20s)?
Carl Comment: “First, you have to understand what you’re supposed to do. Improvement takes time. Make sure you have the right mechanics. You also need a coach to be your eyes to tell you what you’re doing right and wrong. Find the right coach…one that you trust knows what to do and can work with you. We’ve all heard that story that a bad coach can hurt you a lot more than a good coach can help you. “
And then you have to trust the process. We have a good example of this on our blog…LeShon Collins is a Team Perfect Method athlete whose experience might help you think this through. http://theperfectmethod.net/2017/01/23/running-faster-takes-time-trust-process/
How do I increase my speed running 5Ks or 10Ks?
Carl Comment: “People think that it’s about speed work. Focus on the push because that’s where your power really comes from. We run hills because you have to push yourself up hills. With sprinting, you’re running the same way. Distance runners run the same way, but your arms drop and you run slower. Coach Tellez always used to say, “Distance runners run just like sprinters, just slower. “
Understand the mechanics. Push and stay tall. Running hills and stadium steps will focus you on the push.
We want our athletes to enjoy their time in sports, help them become their best.
My 15-year old daughter is becoming a great hurdler and we want to help her reach her potential without injury. What are your thoughts on her participation in both indoor and outdoor seasons for both school and club?
Carl Comment: “It definitely depends on the number of competitions, but generally it’s OK to compete indoors and outdoors, so long as they get a break. They can do it all, but make sure they’re taking time off in the fall. We heard Dr. Andrews suggest at least a 2-month break. Even though it may seem like a big deal, it’s not. Let them have some fun in the summer, or maybe take their break in the fall, or both.”
What are your thoughts on athletes competing 2-3 sports to improve their attractiveness to college coaches?
The main reason this is a good idea isn’t to improve for college, it’s just to make you a better athlete. You will become a better athlete by competing in multiple sports.
There are many articles available that support this premise. Here’s an example:
Let’s take a look at football and track. Many college football players are successful track athletes and they go hand in hand. Wide receiver and backs are the obvious ones. Did you know that Terry Bradshaw was a State Champion in the Javelin? Michael Carter, a lineman for the San Francisco 49’ers was the NCAA record holder for the shotput.
What are your thoughts on young athletes’ use of drugs to enhance their performance? Is this problem real or perceived?
Carl Comment: “It’s pretty obvious that I’m against drug usage at every level. I see a problem not only physically but emotionally. Drugs are illegal in sports and they’re damaging psychologically because they affect confidence in athletic performance and self-esteem forever.
A lot of people who took drugs look back on their sports career and wonder how good they would have been without them.
To answer the question directly: if anyone is using drugs, we have a problem.
Parents, it’s not about the kids being better than everyone else. It’s about them being the best that they can be. Focus on what they can get good at, like their mechanics. Or take them into basketball. Work on their passing, their dribbling. Work on their motor skills, their spatial awareness. We need to create self-esteem in our young athletes by letting them become the best they can be at what they enjoy.
The Triple Jump. Does it have to hurt?
Carl Comment: “It shouldn’t hurt. If you’re experiencing pain, it probably means you’re attacking the ground. Instead, wait for the ground and push off of it. Focus on pushing. Check out the running biomechanics section in the portal if you want to learn more.
It’s very important to have a good coach working with you on the Triple Jump, because that can mean the difference between success and injury. ”