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November 18, 2016

I hear this refrain – nothing will happen to my child – from adults who do not believe that training to play sports is beneficial; be it for girls or boys or teens. I have also heard parents say that if my child is injured she/he will be better off after going through physical therapy; i.e., it will toughen her/him up. This is why I have called for a ‘sea change’ in thinking.What has really inspired me to write this article is the valued information that reflects 5 – 9 year old children requiring ACL* (knee) surgery. I have never heard of this before. Broken ankles or bones yes; never have I heard of ligament damage at such a young age. This new information should be enough warning for all adults.Why is this happening? The one sport athlete from a young age with too little time for proper rest during the year. Children have open growth plates; adults do not. Professionals train to play their sport and then maintain their gains during the season. Since youngsters are mimicking professional athletes and are specializing at very young ages – they are looking for trouble by just playing.

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Challenges for female athletes at puberty are very real. Those who dispute the valued research need to really think about why they are challenging independent findings that have verified what is happening. Just one of the findings – the lack of a neuromuscular spurt at puberty for females – is sufficient evidence for all female athletes to train to play sports. As Dr. Vicki Harber says: “Women are not men and children are not small adults.”Let me be very clear. This is not a scare tactic. This is not my attempt to steer parents down a path they do not need to walk on. This is REAL, not imagined. The professionals are reacting to youth sport programs and the too high injury rates. This is trained researchers valued conclusions who all want the same thing; i.e., all youngsters have FUN playing their sport(s) with the odds on their side to be injury free.Warren, don’t you realize that sports participation and injuries go hand-in-hand? Of course, I understand the risk of injury when playing sports. But that isn’t what I am saying. I am saying that the young athletes are not prepared for the demands that adults are placing on their growing body. Hence, the need to train to play sports is now being called for by researchers as young as 9 – 12 years of age. Female athlete non-contact ACL injuries that do not have to happen trouble me.Training habits need to be formed before puberty so when the numerous challenges for females are being faced the youngsters have a head start. There is no downside to safe and age-appropriate training since a trained athlete – if injured – will return to play more quickly than an untrained athlete.Osteoarthritis [OA] is a real threat to females who injure their knees requiring surgery or not. Within 12 years of knee injury, 70% of the female athletes will face an OA challenge. This means youngsters in their late teens to twenties facing a lifetime of medications due to soreness &/or pain. No one wants this to happen.Parents and those that coach have told me there is no time to train. They need to concentrate on skills training. The fallacy in this thinking is that without taking the time to prepare a youngster’s body to play one sport year round, their joints (with the open growth plates) cannot handle the load they are being asked to bear. Therefore, they stand a better chance of breaking down; i.e., injury occurs.

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You will have to trust me as a certified specialist who has helped more than 600 teen female athletes, it is not in any female athlete’s best interests to try and put Humpty Dumpty back together after injury. Training to play sports helps every female athlete be her best on and off her field of play when a safe and age-appropriate, functional training is being followed with an at-home program or one-on-one and group training for those who can afford to spend the money.For those female athletes who enjoy the social aspects of sports and will not play after high school, or for the most serious of elite female athletes – let’s provide all of them with the best chance to remain injury free so they can all enjoy playing their sports.*ACL = anterior cruciate ligament in the knee joint

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