Returning to Junior Sport

Authored by Feisal Zaw & Jonathan Tan.

Coronavirus has had a huge impact on the world. The trickle-down effect of this can be seen through the impact it has had on children in the community.

With grassroots winter sports being put on hold, children have lost their main form exercise. Exercise that is so important to their physical and mental health, especially with the added stress and uncertainty of the current situation.

With that being said; winter sports are FINALLY back. The rush back to the field or the court comes with its risks. Returning to higher intensity sport and exercise poses a greater injury risk when a child has not been training for some time, if they’re not warming up adequately prior to sport and if they’re not getting enough rest through the week. Here are a few some simple tips to keep your kids healthy, pain-free and doing the things they love:

  1. Load Management

You might have heard this term being thrown around by physiotherapists (guilty as charged) and not really known what it means. The principle is that we don’t want kids doing TOO much, as much as we don’t want them doing TOO little. Sport and exercise is very important, but it’s just as important to be scheduling in rest days during the week where they’re not pushing themselves as hard.

TIP: ONE rest day for every week of sport is a minimum.

Check in with what they’re doing IN school as well, as this counts as load on their bodies. Try to avoid having 2 days in a row of high intensity exercise if possible.

  1. Stretching is not always the answer

You would’ve heard it a million times before – “Do your stretches or you’ll injure yourself”

In reality, doing long sustained stretches before exercise may increase their risk of injury. Combining stretching with a dynamic warm up will increase blood flow to their muscles, improve muscle activation and prepare their joints for activity.

A light, dynamic warm up is what we want before any intense activity. High knees, heel flicks, squats, leg swings etc. Stretching has its role and flexibility is important, but it’s just not going to be enough to prepare you before the big game.

  1. Sooner is better than later.

If you hear your children complaining of pain or discomfort then listen in. It can be hard to distinguish something minor and something more serious with kids.

A lot of the time it may just be a knock or a niggle from playing their heart out, but every now and then a small injury can turn into something a little nastier that may really affect their ability to exercise. As a mum, it can hard to know how serious your child is about their complaint. Flag it early and keep an eye on it, and if in doubt it’s always good have it assessed sooner rather than later. With most conditions, catching them early and following the appropriate treatment and management will allow them to recover more quickly and keep them on the field!

A few things to look out for

There are a few classic signs of a more serious injury that has occurred or may be developing slowly. Here are a few things to look out for that may suggest a review with your Physiotherapist is needed.

  • Morning pain and stiffness
    • Anterior knee, anterior hip and the back of the heel are common areas of pain in kids
  • Pain that is worse during their warm up and then improves before becoming worse again after sport
  • Swelling or redness in the area
  • Stretching makes it worse

It’s fantastic that our kids can get back out on the field, court or in the pool. Keep an eye on them and if in doubt, we’re here to help!

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