We are so fortunate to have one of Access Sport’s founding consultants, Kate Perry on the blog this week to talk to us about a topic that is crucial for athletes, parents and coaches to understand. Overtraining and overuse injuries are all too common among young athletes, especially throughout the recruiting process when you are working hard to get identified for scholarship opportunities. Kate helps us understand exactly what these terms mean, how they present themselves, and also how to prevent them before they happen!
OVERTRAINING, OVERUSE INJURIES AND BURNOUT IN HIGH PERFORMANCE YOUTH SPORT.
BY KATE PERRY – MSC. BSC. – SPORT SCIENTIST/STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING COACH
Over the last 2 decades there has been an increase in youth participating in year round training, playing for multiple teams and playing in more than one year round sport. This participation can include playing and training for recreational teams as well as school teams, highly organized provincial/regional team, travel teams and/or pre-Olympic/national training opportunities.
However, the questions one must ask are – when is it too much? When does the athlete get a recovery period/break? Could this intense participation actually cause long term damage? If not addressed, could this intensity permanently inhibit an athlete’s ability to participate in sport due to potential medical, psychological and developmental concerns?
Overuse injuries, overtraining and burning out are buzz words that have been floating around the high performance sport industry for decades. However, what do these words actually mean, what are the warning signs and what are the preventative measures.
Reports suggest that 50% of all injuries in youth athletes are related to overuse and more than half of those are preventable. Overuse injuries are defined as a ‘microtraumatic damage to a bone, muscle or tendon that has been subjected to repetitive stress without sufficient time to heal or undergo the natural reparative processes.’
The exposure to high risk acute injuries and overuses injures has been greater than before in youth athletes because of increased training at a younger age. For example studies have shown in the United States that an average of 2.6million emergency hospital visits for sport related injuries occur at the ages between 5-24 years old. Youth athletes are susceptible to overuse injuries because of the constant stature change in body mass, height and limb length. Growth spurts in a child changes the ratio of muscle strength to body/ limb mass which affects the soft tissues/ligaments because of the increased stress and strain caused by growth. At the ages of 5-18, a child’s body mass will increase from 18kg-73kg and can potentially grow in height as much as 8-12cm per yr. during their peak growth spurt.
There are two types of overuse injuries that an athlete can suffer from:
Growth related disorders including:
- Apophyseal injuries (apophysis – attachment of tendon to bone, injuries that occur at the bone-cartilage junction due to repetitive motion and overuse occurring during period of rapid growth)
- Ossgood-Schlatter disease (insertion of patella tendon on tibial tubercle), This typically occurs between the ages of 11-15years old
(Lateral view X-ray of the knee demonstrating fragmentation of the tibial tubercle with overlying swelling)
- Severs Disease (insertion of Achilles tendon and plantar fascia on the calcaneus). An inflammation of the growth plate in the heel. This typically occurs between ages 7-10years old.
- PFPS – Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (Runners Knee) – causes by biomechanical problem (patella tracking), muscle dysfunctions and overuse
Repeated Microtrauma injuries:
- Stress fractures (bone break),
- Muscles strains (stretching or exerting a muscle beyond it limits)
- Contusions (bleeds into the muscle and soft tissue, bruise), and
- Sprains (ligament that is stretch or complete disruption)
How do these injuries typically occur?
Repetitive improper technique
Excessive sport training
There are 4 main warning signs to watch out for that indicate an athlete may be experiencing overuse injuries.
1) Pain in the affected area after training
2) Pains during the activity without restricting performance
3) Pains during activity that restricts performance
4) Chronic pains even at rest
How can COACHES help prevent these injuries?
Screening your athletes:
Stature and Body Mass
Maturity –Peak Height Velocity measurement, signs of puberty
Flexibility and Strength Tests
Refer to professional if appropriate for further evaluation
Monitoring your athletes
Height, seated height, body mass – for peak height values and growth spurt monitoring
Age Appropriate Training
Volume, intensity, duration.
Pitch size, number of drills per practice, number of players per drill/game
Structured vs unstructured play – allow appropriate balance between the two.
Educate parents/athletes about signs and symptoms of overuse injuries
Educate yourself on growth and development,
How can PARENTS help prevent these injuries?
Listen to your child’s reports of pain, if constant complaints then take action to see a professional earlier rather than later
Educate yourself on the warning signs of overuse injuries
How can ATHLETES help prevent these injuries?
Listen to your bodies.
Be able to differentiate what is genuine muscle fatigue/soreness and an overuse injury
Rest and recovery is vital to your longitudinal development, do not think that taking a week off or a training session off will affect how you perform. Rest and recovery will be most beneficial to long term better performance.
Overtraining is defined as a ‘series of psychological, physiological and hormonal changes that result in decreased performance’.
Overtraining symptoms include:
a) Chronic muscle/joint pain
b) Personality changes
c) Elevated heart rate
d) Decrease in performance.
e) Lack of enthusiasm for practice/competition,
f) Fatigue and constant tiredness
e) Struggling to complete normal lifestyle routine.
Burnout is defined as a combination of the overtraining symptoms. Athletes my notice burnout most often by a lack of motivation, “not caring” anymore about your goals, just wanting to be a “normal high school student” and hang with friends, watching too much TV or eating unhealthy foods.
How do COACHES prevent burnout or overtraining?
Keep training fun, interesting, age appropriate drills and games.
Organize mandatory TIME OFF of structured training 1-2days per week
Longer schedule breaks from training and competition every 2-3months
Focus on wellness and educating athlete to listen to their bodies.
Recognize and be observant of your athletes for potential burnout/over training.
How do PARENTS and ATHLETES prevent burnout or overtraining?
Monitoring your Training Schedule
How many sports do you participate over a year, month, week
How many days and hours a week are you involved in structured training
Schedule in your rest days, recovery weeks and off season recovery time
Recognize the symptoms of overtraining and take a break to do something different away from your regular routine
In conclusion, participation in any type of youth sport is fundamental to overall development encouraging lifelong physical activity and a healthy lifestyle. Sport boosts life skills for the future that includes; teamwork, time management, leadership, discipline, and healthy competitiveness to name a few attributes. Often coaches and parents fall into the trap of wanting their child to become a professional athlete or obtain a full university scholarship. However, this will only be achievable IF the ATHLETE:
- Is dedicated to achieving this goal.
- Participates in the correct type of training and minimizing the risk of overuse/overtraining.
- Has good coaches that understand the long-term athlete development model
- Is monitored in order to control his/her wellbeing and training schedule
- Takes appropriate scheduled recovery periods during the year.
Do you suffer from over training, overuse or burnout injuries? Is this affecting your recruiting? Do you have questions for Kate? ASK THEM IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!
Adirim, T, Cheng, T, 2003 ‘ Overview of Injuries in the Young Athletes’, Sport Medicine, 33,1, pp 75-81 Bremer, J, 2007, Overuse Injuries, Overtraining and Burnout in Child and Adolescent Athletes, American Academy of Paediatrics, 119, pp 1242 Hawkins, D, Metheny, J. 2001, ‘Overuse injuries in youth sports: biomechanical considerations’, American College of Sport Medicine, 33, 10 pp 1701