Overtraining is a huge problem in today's sports which results in unnecessary injuries and burnout. Although the above article is not centered around youth athletes it starts to paint a picture of the problem within athletics that we are constantly battling. Club teams are largely to blame for this problem with our youth. For instance, many hours of practice are REQUIRED for these kids to complete each week with demanding competition schedules that require traveling and/or several competitions in one weekend. On top of that, strength and conditioning specialists feel the need to get their time in with these athletes and OH....yeah, that school bit is important too, not to mention any social events or school functions the athlete may want to participate in. Let's also combine that with how these kids are supposed to manage all of these demands and how are they mentally supposed to stay healthy? And if it's cold and flu season....well, that's just not fair.
So we have this population of kids (yes they are kids) who are juggling a lot and they will break down physically and mentally if they keep up these ridiculous training schedules. The question for parents to ask is "where can they give?" and "how can we do this without my child being punished for not being at a REQUIRED club function?"
As physical therapists who interact with these athletes daily, we definitely feel for this group. Often we are not liked by the club owners, coaches, strength and conditioning or performance individuals when we may take a bit more of a conservative approach, if we feel our athlete will be tossed back into a web of overtraining and overloading much too soon after injury. The great athletes that many of these kids are, place the stress on themselves. They feel they are letting their team down if they do not participate when they are injured or unless they physically have a cast on, they should be playing. We often are in a position to create the "load plan" for return to sports, how to safely re-integrate back to their level of play. For most, this may seem like an eternity but when the plan is followed, it's usually a successful return.
Education is the key here for all parties involved. Over-loading at the wrong time will elevate the athletes risk for injury. So let's make sure that all parties involved are educated on when to push and when to hold back. When we hold them back, let's make sure they aren't punished for being smart and educated about their minds and bodies. Again, it's not the athletes that will abuse this out for a break but it's the one that is driven to succeed, the one that feels they are invincible, the perfectionist. Sports have evolved immensly for the youth and I'm afraid it's evolved in the wrong ways. So let's take a step back and look at the big picture for these kids to make sure they have a healthy future, because that would be wining in the long run! When all else fails adhere to the 10% rule. Do not increase a variable by more than 10% per week, that principle has been shown to be an appropriate load that most athletes bodies can adapt to.