Because I grew up with sport being not only a huge source of enjoyment but also a major factor in my personal growth and development, I think it’s a bit of a travesty when parents don’t encourage their own young children to try out a wide variety of sports and activities (and then allow them to choose what they like most).
However, once adolescence is reached, it is important to take into account their higher risk of injury. Growth spurts and hormonal changes (as well as a heightened degree of perceived stress from school and social pressure) may increase their chances of sustaining injury. As well as that, many athletic teenagers in Ireland can end up overtraining as they try to split themselves over multiple sports and teams (school, club, county, country, etc.). This can also lead to a higher risk of injury.
By getting them involved in a strength and conditioning plan early, the deleterious effects of long training periods without rest can be subdued or greatly reduced. Abernethy and Bleakley’s (2007) systematic review on ‘Strategies to prevent injury in adolescent sport’ concluded:
‘…that injury prevention strategies that focus on preseason conditioning, functional training, education, balance and sport-specific skills, which should be continued throughout the sporting season, are effective.’
Given that hip surgeries in Ireland increased by 392% in GAA from 2007 to 2014, I think it’s imperative that adolescents’ highly competitive sporting careers don’t result in them needing surgery, living in pain during adulthood or having to retire prematurely.
A simple off-season 6-12 week programme can be enough to decrease injury risk for the following season.
‘Children can improve strength by 30% to 50% after just 8 to 12 weeks of a well-designed strength training program. Youth need to continue to train at least 2 times per week to maintain strength. The case reports of injuries related to strength training, including epiphyseal plate fractures and lower back injuries, are primarily attributed to the misuse of equipment, inappropriate weight, improper technique, or lack of qualified adult supervision.’ (Dahab and McCambridge, 2009)
It’s clear that a well designed S&C programme can be of huge benefit to adolescents as much as it can be for adults.