Minimizing The Risk Of Injury
Soccer News: Top ranked youth soccer player, Bryan Hill, was the #1 MLS Draft pick in 1998. How did this rising soccer star kick off Rehab United years later? A deep passion for healing was awakened in 1991 when Hill was badly hurt in an indoor soccer game and broke his femur. Although his nerves and a major artery were barely missed, Hill required extensive surgery and physical therapy. Hill’s brother Sean came to help him rehabilitate and this experience sparked a life-long passion for helping athletes heal.
Hill turned his understanding of the athletes body into a career and became a top physical therapist, launching Rehab United with Sean twelve years ago. Hill has a vast knowledge of biomechanics and trains a wide variety of athletes from many different sports including Olympic Gold Medalists, Paralympic athletes, and of course, youth soccer players with big dreams.
SoccerToday interviewed Hill to get his thoughts on the importance of stretching:
Diane Scavuzzo: Can coaches/players/parents really help reduce the risks of serious injury?
Bryan Hill: Proper warm-up and stretching before and after, no doubt can reduce injury. Parents can encourage players to take the time to warm up properly and players can realize how spending a few minutes stretching instead of talking to teammates or shooting at the goal before practice can help them perform better on the field and help them minimize the risk of injury.
Although there is much research on the topic, if you look deeper into the research, the actual exercises or stretches that many players do may not be sufficient and/or lack dynamic/functional application .
Diane Scavuzzo: Why do soccer players seem to resist stretching when it can help them perform better and reduce the risks of injury?
Bryan Hill: I find that young & old players resist proper warm up and stretching due to the lack of immediate response. Kicking a ball into the net is far more exhilarating than the pain of a hamstring stretch. The long term benefits are harder to capture, but any player that has missed weeks, months, or even years due to injury can attest to the risk/reward.
Diane Scavuzzo: Why do so many coaches not start off (warm up) and close down (cool down) with stretching?
Bryan Hill: My guess is, that coaches have limited time with their players so they want to focus on skills or development. I think many coaches believe what they give the players is sufficient, or delegate this to someone with little training.
Proper warm up is time consuming, hard to motivate, and requires attention to detail correcting, instructing, and can require disciplining kids who don’t pay attention, lack focus, and or the desire to do the warm up. There are ways to make a great warm up more engaging for the players and therefore more successful. This is why bringing in a consultant is worth the time and the money, we do it for the coach and the coach can prepare his lesson plan for that practice.
Diane Scavuzzo: How can youth soccer coaches help reduce injuries? How can parents?
I would categories injury prevention in a few categories for youth soccer coaches:
1. Preparation – this is what we are talking about. Having a clear injury prevention plan. Include proper practice and game warm up and cool down, stretches, and injury prevention strategies used prior to injury.
Coaches work hard to recruit and train their youth soccer players – these kids performance on the field is valuable to the coach and proper player preparation makes good sense for the competitive coach.
2. Repair/Recovery – being aware of hard weeks/weekends after tournaments, or repeated games, changes in intensity/volume (high school to club, increased fitness expectation, introducing a new strategy (strength/plyos).
The youth soccer coach should increase stretching during these times high impact time frames; allow longer cool down and allow for more rest/recovery days in general.
Educating the coaches on what recovery days look like/giving options for players is critical. We can’t control everything but — for example, on my rest days, I had friends over to the pool and we swam and played hard for hours — that was not rest.
3. Physical Development – recognizing normal development and how to accomplish age specific physical changes. Proper nutritional guidance during growth spurts, educating parents to what those signs look like, and giving increased warm up time for those players.
- Implementing proper form for strength activities and recognizing when a player is not recovered; struggling with normally successful activities.
- Treating players as individuals and being less worried about special treatment, but rather treating the player based on their presentation.
4. Awareness/Assessment – this defines a coach recognizing when a player lacks speed relative to other players his/her same age, awkward running style, clumsiness, increased falls, flat feet or rigid high arch feet.
- Any thing that a coach could recognize as something that a parent should consider having their child evaluated for potential risk and develop long term strategies for that particular player, parent, coach.
Diane Scavuzzo: Time is so short, we always hear of players racing from school to training – What can players do in the car on the way to practice?
Bryan Hill: Seated stretches are possible for the hamstrings and hips, so starting to stretch while driving over to practice would be a good start.
Diane Scavuzzo: What else can parents do to help?
Bryan Hill: Parents should have their kid drink at least half a bottle if not a full bottle of water before getting on the field. Hydration, more importantly preventing dehydration is extremely valuable for the parent/player/coach to pay attention to.
Coming Soon: Recommended Stretches For Youth Soccer Players – Stretches that really make a difference for soccer players.
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