Gymnastic Safety Tips

Gymnastics is a vigorous sport that can lead to building some of the most dynamic young athletes in the world and, at the same time, results in more injuries than most people realize. In fact, statistically, it has similar injury rates to football and rugby. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 22,000 children under the age of 14 years were treated in hospital emergency rooms for gymnastics-related injuries in 2009 and this number is trending upward. Almost half of the injuries occur with hand springs and flips; as the learning of these skills is a process of repeated failures and falls.

To limit the risk of injury, four tips should be followed (I would use followed with ‘tips’ and taken with ‘steps’) with all levels of gymnastics participation.

1. Set appropriate environment boundaries for training

Gymnastics facilities spend tens of thousands of dollars on protective equipment to pad and decrease the strains of the sports frequent tumbles and falls. Your basement or backyard lacks this same protection and is not the location to demonstrate to friends your “special tricks,” or master new skills.  Parents need to set appropriate boundaries on where training occurs. Protective environment also includes the proper hand grips, wrist guards and event specific bracing that the coach may recommend.

2. Let your body take a break

Physical conditioning is a year round activity, but gymnastics at an early age should not be.  Everyone needs a physical and emotional break throughout the year and this allows small strains to recover and not turn into significant injuries. Playing on multiple teams is rarely healthy and is setting you up to be injured.

3. Warm up and cool down before performing

Dynamic warm ups, appropriate post practice, or a training cool down with stretching helps the body absorb more strain, delaying injury and increasing the body’s tolerance to the demands of the sport long term.

4. Take your time to master the sport

Finally, gymnastics should not be a trial and error sport. Learning a new skill requires coaching, spotting and appropriate feedback on each attempt, as the child learns and adapts to a new challenge. Children below the age of 12 struggle with complex commands and do better with visual feedback. Filming their attempts on an electronic device can be helpful and gives them the ability to self-assess.

When an injury does occur it is important to fully recover with full range of motion, pain free strength, and a gradual build up to the prior level to allow the body to re-adapt after a break.

Written by: Nathan Estrada, sports medicine therapist for Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Outpatient Specialty Care in Parker, Colorado. Did you like this blog post? Then consider subscribing to our blog to receive helpful advice, resources and information for young athletes. 

Common Volleyball Injuries in Young Athletes

Side out. 

Second to only soccer, volleyball has one of the highest participation rates worldwide, including both indoor and beach volleyball. It is one of the unique team sports that has evolved into two distinct Olympic events–indoor and beach. Although injury patterns differ between indoor and beach volleyball, there are similar injuries commonly seen between the two sports. Overall, overuse injuries are more common than acute injuries because of the amount of repetition, improper technique, and type of playing surface. Overuse conditions of the knee, shoulder and lower back are not unusual in volleyball.

Ankle injuries

Ankle sprains are the most common acute injuries seen in volleyball athletes, accounting for about 40% of all volleyball related injuries. They occur most commonly at the net when an opposing player lands onto another player’s foot.  When dealing with an ankle sprain it is important to adequately rehab the injury before returning to play, preferably under the supervision of an athletic trainer or physical therapist.

Recurrent ankle sprains are extremely common within 6 months of the initial injury, owing to inadequate rehabilitation. One study showed that balance board training to regain balance is an effective tool to help prevent recurrent ankle injuries in volleyball players.

Hand injuries

Trauma to fingers is extremely common, especially during setting and blocking. Most finger injuries in volleyball involve joint sprains, tendon tears, and dislocations. X-rays are indicated in most finger injuries in volleyball to evaluate for any fractures.

Knee injuries

The nature of volleyball requires repetitive explosive jumping, which places a lot of stress on the patellar tendon, resulting in pain in this area. At some point, approximately half of volleyball athletes develop patellar tendinitis, known to many as “jumper’s knee”.  The most common site of pain is where the patellar tendon attaches to the lower pole of the knee cap. Treatment consists of stretching and strengthening exercises, and use of a patellar tendon strap can sometimes improve the pain. For some athletes, a period of rest from jumping activities may be necessary.

Although not as common as patellar tendinitis, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears can be a more serious injury and typically occurs in volleyball during a cutting maneuver or when an athlete comes down from a jump awkwardly. Most athletes who wish to return to high demand sports like volleyball generally opt for surgical repair to have the ligament reconstructed. Because many athletes have difficulties returning to high level sports and the potential long term complications after an ACL tear, there is a lot of emphasis placed on prevention programs.

Shoulder injuries

Volleyball players repetitively use their shoulders for overhead serving, spiking and blocking, which commonly leads to shoulder pain. Overuse of the rotator cuff muscles can lead to rotator cuff tendinitis or tears, which is more commonly seen in adults than in young athletes, although it can occur. More often, pain from shoulder instability and resulting impingement is what we typically see in our young athletes. In addition to the rotator cuff muscles, there are also ligaments that help to stabilize the shoulder joint during movement.

In volleyball, the player’s arm typically goes into extreme positions and rotations for hitting. When these muscles and ligaments are overworked and unable to restrain excessive movement of the shoulder, the player may sense as if the shoulder is unstable and typically will develop pain when the rotator cuff and labrum (cartilage) gets impinged against structures inside the shoulder joint because of excessive shoulder movement. Over time, this can also lead to a labral tear.

Lower back pain

Back pain in volleyball players is very common because of repetitive bending and rotating of the trunk. Strains of the lower back is the most common back injury although the repetitive hyperextension of the lower back during hitting and setting can also place a lot of stress on the lower back bones. This can lead to stress fractures of the vertebra in the spine, known as spondylolysis, which is a very common cause of low back pain in volleyball players. Adolescents, in particular, are very vulnerable to this injury because their vertebral bones are still weak in this area. Learn how we treat spondylolysis.

Although volleyball is a relatively safe sport compared to other high contact, collision sports, it does lend itself to unique injury patterns; particularly overuse injuries of the knee, shoulder and back. Like many young athletes who are training year round or are focusing on just one sport, regardless of which sport, overuse injuries in volleyball players are becoming problematic. To help prevent these overuse injuries, we highly encourage limiting the number of teams an athlete plays on in a given season, as well as discouraging participation in only one sport year round.

Written by: Quynh Hoang, MD, FAAP, CAQSM, Pediatric Primary Care Sports Medicine Assistant Professor, Department of Orthopedics, Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Winter Sports Safety Tips-Have Fun, Stay Injury-Free

Skiing, hockey and sledding, oh my! We are lucky to live in Colorado…the Rocky Mountain winters allow us to enjoy outdoor activities including

Winter recreational activities provide all of us – adults and children – with a ton of fun, but along ice skating, snowboarding, snow tubing, snowmobiling and many other snow sports.

Here are some quick  winter sports tips to help ensure keep everyone safe as you and your children head outdoors. *with that comes a lot of risk for injuries. It’s early in the season, but we are already starting to see a lot of winter sports-related injuries in our sports medicine clinics.

Sledding and Snow Tubing

  • Finding a good hill. Choose one that has a clear path without obstacles in the way. Make sure that the hill does not end on a street, road, parking lot or any bodies of water such as a pond or river.
  • Never slide down hill headfirst. Sit up facing forward to steer. Risks of head and back injuries are greater by lying down on the sled.
  • Clear the bottom of the hill. Make sure that no one is at the bottom of the hill before allowing another sled to go down the slope.
  • Do not use materials that can be pierced by objects in the ground as sleds. Examples include rubber or plastic sheets.
  • Use a sled with runners and a steering mechanism. Toboggans and snow disks are not as safe.

Snowmobiling

  • Any child under 6 years of age should not be allowed to ride on a snowmobile, regardless if an adult is present.
  • Children under 16 years of age should not be permitted to operate the snowmobile.
  • A bike helmet is not appropriate! Do wear certified helmets designed specifically for high speed motor sports.

Ice Skating / Pond Skating

Choose skating rinks over pond skating.

If you do choose pond skating, here are some recommendations:

  • Call local authorities to ask which areas have been approved and to ask permission to skate on a pond or lake.
  • Make sure that the weather has been cold enough for at least one week before skating on a pond or lake.
  • Skates need to be sharpened properly before skating on pond or lake ice.

Skiing and Snowboarding

  • If your child has never skied or snowboarded, enroll them in lessons.
  • Warm up the muscles that will be used in skiing and snowboarding with exercise activities to help prevent injuries. Take the time to stretch after the warm up as well.
  • Use proper ski and snowboard equipment such as well fitted boots and adjusted bindings. Ask a certified technician to help with the fittings.
  • Stick to trails within your child’s skill level.
  • Pay attention to signs on the trail. Obey trail closure and do not go off trail.

General safety for any winter activity

  • Always wear a helmet and make sure they are properly fitted!
  • Helmet safety is of utmost importance to help prevent head injuries.
  • Different activities require different types of helmet so choose appropriately and make sure they are certified to meet federal safety standards.
Activity Type of Helmet
Skiing and Snowboarding Ski helmet
Sledding, Snow Tubing Ski helmet or Bicycle helmet
Ice Skating Bicycle helmet, Multi-sport helmet
Snowmobiling Snowmobile helmet
  • An adult should always be present to supervise
  • Dress for the winter- wear warm fitting clothes, dress in layers and stay dry.
  • Stay hydrated. Have them drink fluid before, during and after their activities.
  • Don’t forget sunscreen!  Even on overcast days, especially up in the mountains, the sun rays can be harmful.

*Some of these guidelines are adapted from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) position statement on winter sports safety.

Written by: Quynh Hoang, MD, FAAP, CAQSM, Pediatric Primary Care Sports Medicine Assistant Professor, Department of Orthopedics, Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Is CrossFit Training Safe for Kids?

Recently, a feature aired on National Public Radio (NPR) about CrossFit Kids questioning whether or not young athletes should take part in such a strenuous athletic program.

After listening to the feature, I thought to myself: Due to the high expectations of sports performance, I believe this is an important question to ask prior to your young athlete’s participation in a demanding athletic program.

What is CrossFit Kids?

CrossFit Kids is a branch of the adult strength and conditioning program, CrossFit, which strives for an elite level of fitness. It was traditionally used to train members of the Armed Forces as well as the police, martial artists and professional athletes. CrossFit is based on the concept of “constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement” to allow an individual to perform multiple, diverse and randomized physical challenges through short sets of difficult tasks.

CrossFit has now become extremely popular among all ages, as it can be “scaled down” to fit the needs of each person depending on their physical condition and skill level. And since 2004, CrossFit Kids gyms have made their way across the U.S.

The kids program, however, is not an easier version of the adult program, but it is “geared towards specific developmental needs” of children. It also heavily incorporates the sports of Olympic weightlifting into the cross-training program, which is not always safe for young athletes.

What’s the issue with Olympic weight training?

As featured in our blog previously, weight training is not necessarily discouraged in young athletes. However, Olympic weightlifting is different from common weightlifting, as most young children do not have the strength or technique to perform Olympic weightlifting, namely power lifts or kettle bell exercises.

Powerlifting not recommended by pediatricians

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Committee on Sports and Fitness, recommends that children and teenagers avoid powerlifting, body building and maximal lifts until they reach skeletal and physical maturity, as safe technique is difficult to maintain with explosive power lifts. In addition, powerlifting places too much abrupt stress on young growing bodies.

Is weight training better for young athletes than CrossFit Kids?

However, we do recommend weight training, which is focused on safely learning and mastering proper technique. It is best accomplished with light weights at high repetitions, such as 8-14 repetitions per set, and being able to comfortably perform 2-3 sets. For example, a young athlete might do 3 sets of 10 repetitions. The goal is not to achieve muscle bulk, but to focus on fitness, strength, endurance and safe technique.

As an alternative to Olympic weightlifting, I would suggest that these criteria be applied to young athletes who wish to participate in CrossFit Kids. There is nothing wrong with children participating in CrossFit Kids as long as they are closely monitored during the drills and guided to appropriately modify the exercises based on their age, fitness and skill level.

Helping your young athlete adjust their workout routine for enjoyment and safety

Substitutions should also be made so that young athletes are able to properly perform the exercises. For example, your child may need to exercise with lighter weights and higher repetitions than may be assigned in CrossFit Kids “Workout of the Day.”

Most importantly, though, exercise in children should be motivating, fun and build skill. If a child does not enjoy CrossFit, they should be directed towards activities they do enjoy. They can get the same benefits from less structured physical activities, such as playing at the park, riding their bicycle or scooter (with a helmet of course!) or joining a sports team of their choice.

Written by: Rachel A. Coel, MD, PhD; Co-Medical Director, Sports Medicine for Young Athletes. To schedule an appointment, please call 720-777-6600. We are happy to consult with parents or referring providers before a patient is seen at Children’s Colorado.

AED Helps Save Todd Helton’s Cousin on Basketball Court

Fourteen-year-old Hunter Helton, cousin of Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, is considered one lucky kid.

During a basketball conditioning practice last week, Hunter felt “heart burn in his chest” after running and unexpectedly collapsed on the court. Using his knowledge of CPR, coach John Higgins immediately ran to find the school’s nearest automated external defibrillator (AED) to save Hunter’s life.

Watch our Co-Medical Director of the Sports Medicine Program, Dr. Rachel Coel, explain how AEDs work:

Why AEDs are important
With Sudden Cardiac Arrest as the leading cause of death in the United States, having an AED defibrillator in your workplace, school, fitness gym, church or home is more likely to save a life than any of the other safety devices you already own such as a fire extinguisher and smoke detector.

What can you do? 
Learn CPR and encourage coaches and referees in your sporting leagues to become CPR trained as well. More information is available on the Colorado Red Cross website.

Are you CPR certified? Do you have questions about AEDs? Let us know in the comments section below. 

Did you like this blog post? Then consider subscribing to our blog to receive helpful advice, resources and information for young athletes.

How Can Concussion Prevention Help My Young Football Player from Developing a More Serious Injury?

A recent study released by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) examined a sample of over 3400 retired NFL players and found that a very small but disproportionate number of these players have died from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Media and some scientists have questioned whether concussions or subconcussive  blows could be to blame for these unfortunate findings.

What do we make of these findings about retired NFL players?

Although the findings are of concern, several points about the study are worth remembering.  The study did not collect information on concussion history so whether concussions play a causal role in these problems remains unclear. The study was also based entirely on professional athletes.

Something unique to these players could help to explain the findings (i.e. participation in football for several decades, steroid/substance abuse) so whether these findings can be applied to youth who play football for a relatively short period of time or to youth who sustain isolated concussions remains unclear. It must also be remembered that youth sports like are associated with innumerable benefits including improved physical health, psychosocial well-being, and even better school performance. Thus, decisions to restrict young athletes from any organized sport need to be made very thoughtfully. Learn more about concussions and their relation to emotional and social issues in young athletes.

What do we know about concussions in the long-term?

Considerable research has now demonstrated that most athletes who sustain a single sports-related concussion recover within a couple of weeks of their injury. Younger children might take slightly longer to recover but still generally recover well. We do know that having one concussion puts an individual at greater risk for having future concussions and possibly for having a longer recovery period after future injuries. Therefore, multiple injuries in any athlete needs to be considered carefully. 

So what can we do to protect our young football players?

One of our roles at the Children’s Hospital Colorado Concussion Program is to educate patients, families, and the community about concussion. Knowing the facts about concussions is important because misinformation can cause injuries to be minimized in certain cases or cause unnecessary alarm or worry in others. Learn how to recognize the symptoms of a concussion.

A child’s brain is different than an adult brain because it is still actively developing. Here at Children’s Colorado’s Concussion Program, we take a comprehensive, thoughtful, and research-based approach to concussion evaluation and treatment. Evaluations are individualized to each athlete, avoiding simplistic formulas or an easy approach. When recovery is not proceeding as quickly as might be expected, state of the art neuroimaging and evaluation by specialists (i.e. sports medicine physicians, neuropsychologists, rehabilitation physicians) with particular expertise in concussion provide invaluable information to guide treatment. Our scientific expertise and the high volume of patients seen each year makes Children’s Colorado the most knowledgeable and experienced concussion team focused on children and teens in the Rocky Mountain region, and among the very best in the country.

Find out if high-tech helmets prevent concussions.

Download a concussion guide for coaches.

Written by: Children’s Colorado’s Neuropsychologists Drs. David Baker and Michael Kirkwood. To find out more about general safety tips, read our archived injury prevention posts, or to schedule an appointment through the Concussion Program call 720-777-2806.

Football: What is an AC Joint Injury?

Even worse than a dropped pass or a missed extra point is that few seconds in a football game when someone gets hurt and no one is quite sure how serious the injury might be. If that injured player is your child, the anxiety is that much stronger.

According to one study, chances are that injury is somehow related to the shoulder. Forty-one percent of injuries in football are related to the shoulder, either dislocations or separations.

What is an AC joint injury?

In football, it is highly possible that your child’s injury can be related to the shoulder. A common site of injury is the Acromioclavicular Joint (AC Joint) which is the joint where the collar bone meets the shoulder blade. (There are three bones that make up the AC joint and if the ligaments connecting these bones are damaged, it is considered a AC separation). If the upper arm or humerus pops out of the shoulder socket it is known as a dislocated shoulder.

How to prevent AC joint injuries

While AC joint injuries are most often the result of direct contact, and in football there isn’t any way to avoid some pretty serious direct contact, there are still things that can be done to prevent AC injuries. The most important prevention methods are:

  • Wearing the proper protective equipment correctly
  • Strengthening the shoulder and upper body
  • Learn to fall and react to direct hits
  • Don’t play until fully-recovered from previous shoulder injuries!

Recovering from an AC joint injury

Most AC injuries don’t require surgery and can be treated with therapy and rest. Both parts of recovery are essential, as returning to play too soon after an injury can put the athlete in danger for more significant injuries. Physicians classify AC injuries from a level 1 (least severe) to a level 6 (most severe).

Recovery time for a level 1 can be as little as a couple weeks, but a level 4 or higher may require surgery and take 2 to 3 months to fully recover. Again, the best way to prevent a serious (level 3 or higher) AC injury is to make sure any previous shoulder injuries are completely healed.

Along with teaching young athletes the skills of their position, it is important for coaches and athletic trainers to teach how to avoid and identify AC injuries. Just as important as squeezing an extra yard or two out of a run is staying healthy for the next play.

Play hard, but play healthy!

Written by: Ruth L. Hart, ATC/R, Certified Athletic Trainer, Thornton High School, Children’s Hospital Colorado. To find out more about general safety tips, read our archived injury prevention posts, or schedule an appointment at 720-777-6600. We are happy to consult with parents or referring providers before a patient is seen at Children’s Colorado. Did you like this blog post? Then consider subscribing to our blog to receive helpful advice, resources and information for young athletes.

Stingers: A Common Injury in Football

As a coach, I have watched many football injuries happen from the sidelines. But one injury that always seems to worry me is a “stinger”—also known as a “burner.”

During a football game last fall, one of our toughest linebackers came sprinting off the field with the look of terror in his eyes, and I immediately started thinking the worst. He couldn’t raise his arm, feel his fingers or even squeeze my hand. Luckily, I’ve dealt with this same scenario in the past and was able to confidently diagnose him with a stinger and return him to play within 10 minutes.

What is a stinger?

A stinger, also called a burner depending on who you ask, is the nickname given to a common nerve injury of the neck and shoulder seen in contact sports, especially football. It almost always occurs during tackling, when the tackler get his shoulder forced one way while his head and neck the other. This stretches the nerve bundle, known as the brachial plexus, which runs from the neck into the shoulder and down the arm, briefly stunning the nerves.

As the nerves try to recover they don’t function properly resulting in the burning, stinging or tingling feeling along with a “dead arm” that won’t move. This can be terrifying to those unaware of what has just occurred. All of a sudden something must be seriously wrong.

What are the symptoms of a stinger?

  • Stinging, tingling or burning sensation down arm into hand.
  • Severe pain in the neck and shoulder.
  • Weakness of arm and shoulder.
  • Unable to lift or move arm.

These are the symptoms of a stinger, but they can also be signs of a more serious injury. So how do we know one from the other?

Well for starters, an athlete that has just experienced a serious neck or shoulder injury typically will not run off the field. They will stay down writhing in pain or worse yet not be moving at all. Also, with more serious injuries, the inability to use the arm and the severity of the pain will increase, or at the very least, remain the same. If someone has a stinger, the pain will begin to subside fairly quickly and the arm will begin functioning as normal.  

When it is safe to return to sports?

It is highly recommended that any athlete suffering from nerve symptoms after receiving a blow to the head and neck injury be evaluated by a healthcare professional (doctor, athletic trainer, EMT) to rule out a more significant injury. If you are ever in doubt about the severity of the injury, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention. However, because this injury does resolve so quickly, the athlete can return to action if:

  • Pain in neck and shoulder is completely gone
  • Numbness and tingling in arm is completely gone
  • Full motion in neck, shoulder and arm
  • Full strength in neck and shoulder

When should I see a doctor?

Fortunately, a stinger is a pretty mild injury as far as injuries go. It usually comes and goes without much issue or lingering effects. However, there are some situations that call for a doctors’ attention. If you begin to experience numbness, tingling or weakness, please contact your nearest doctor.

Written by: Nick Garcia, ATC/R, Certified Athletic Trainer, Sports Medicine Department of Orthopedics, Children’s Hospital Colorado. To find out more about general safety tips, read our archived injury prevention posts, or schedule an appointment at 720-777-6600. We are happy to consult with parents or referring providers before a patient is seen at Children’s ColoradoDid you like this blog post? Then consider subscribing to our blog to receive helpful advice, resources and information for young athletes.

How to Identify and Avoid Cramps on the Football Field

It’s that time of year – when students say goodbye to the freedom of summer and parents welcome the return of the school year! While many people consider this time to be the beginning of “fall”, many of us also see the next few months for what it really is…football season!

As much as we love to watch each game for the break-away run or the fourth down conversion, there is something even more important for players, coaches, and parents to watch for during practices and games…signs of cramps. Not only do cramps hinder performance, but they can be very painful and lead to serious injuries as the athlete loses strength in the affected muscles.

Cramps can be identified by the following symptoms:

What causes cramps while playing in football players?

Cramps are often caused when the levels of sodium, potassium and other minerals in the body are unbalanced, causing pain in the muscles. To help with the pain, NFL coaches used to give their players salt tablets before games for this very reason. Learn more about treating muscle cramps.

How to avoid getting cramps

Although coaches may encourage playing through cramps, this is not how you get rid of the pain. There are important steps that can be taken to prevent and treat cramps once they set in. The following tips can help:

  • Staying hydrated with sports drinks that contain electrolytes, sodium, and potassium
  • Proper warm-up exercises

Even the best prevention efforts don’t guarantee an athlete won’t experience cramps. But when they happen, it is important for the player to take a break, keep stretching, and replenish the salt loss through sweating, with more sports drinks, rather than trying to play through the pain. Find out if it’s better to drink water or sports drinks during a game. While it may feel like cramps are just painful and won’t have a long-term impact, it is important to note that they can put athletes at risk for accidents and injuries that are completely preventable.

If players, parents, and coaches watch closely for signs of cramping and address them when they happen, then the odds increase that we’ll also get to see that break-away 70-yard touchdown run, the sack in the end zone, or the 40-yard game winning field goal!

Written by: Ruth L. Hart, ATC/R, Certified Athletic Trainer, Thornton High School, Children’s Hospital Colorado. To find out more about general safety tips, read our archived injury prevention posts, or schedule an appointment at 720-777-6600. We are happy to consult with parents or referring providers before a patient is seen at Children’s ColoradoDid you like this blog post? Then consider subscribing to our blog to receive helpful advice, resources and information for young athletes.

How To Overcome a Swimming Shoulder Injury Like Missy Franklin

We have a hometown hero in London right now. Missy Franklin is representing Team USA and Colorado with her wonderful smile, charisma, and of course, several Olympic medals.

But I wonder: how does she do it?

Well, I know she swims faster than everyone else in the pool. But, from the perspective of an athletic trainer, I wonder how she can swim thousands of meters every week with an overuse shoulder injury. Working in a high school, I have spent a lot of time with swimmers in the athletic training room while the rest of the team is at practice. And I am still not 100% sure how she does it, but I do have a few ideas that may help young swimmers, like Missy, keep those shoulders strong and healthy. Below are a few of them.

Quality over quantity
Using proper technique in all exercise that you do should always take precedence over how much you can do. Work closely with your coach to refine your form in every stroke. If form is wavering, stop. With lots of practice, you will be able to maintain proper form throughout long and fast workouts. Let me tell you, your shoulders with thank you for it.

Solid warm up
At the Olympics, there is a warm up/swim down pool that they always talk about but never show. It is there for a reason. Missy doesn’t hop off of the bus from Olympic village and go straight to the starting blocks. She always does a proper warm up. During your warm up, start slow and concentrate on the technique you and your coach have been working so hard to perfect. Learn more about dynamic stretching to incorporate into your warm up.

Prehab
In swimming, shoulder injuries are very common. Instead of waiting for a shoulder injury to occur and then performing rehab, take some time now to do those same exercises. Call it “prehab” if you want. Include some rotator cuff, and shoulder and core strengthening exercises into your daily routine. They work great as part of your warm up, or hop out of the pool between sets to squeeze few in, almost like circuit training.

Rest
Exercise is about the work you do, not the rest you take, right? Wrong. Anytime you put stress on your body, you need to recover. To get the benefits of rest you don’t always have to lay on the couch. Rather, you can do a different, low intensity routine, like jumping on a stationary bike, going for a hike (check out the top 5 hikes in the Denver area) or playing a game of soccer with friends. Let those shoulders take a break and allow your whole body to recover.

Eat right
For your body to get stronger it needs the proper building blocks, which comes in the form of food. Eating the right foods in the right quantity is a very important part of staying healthy and continuing to make improvements. Missy must eat almost as much as Michael Phelps does to stay healthy during all of her training. Here are some resourceful blog posts from our experts that can help you get started.

Training for any sport can be a challenge. Realistically, however, the only way that you will be able to spend as much time in the pool as Missy is to stay healthy. I hope you can incorporate a few of these ideas into your training and realize that proper training and good health are the best ways to avoid the risk of a shoulder injury.

Written by: Ben Locke, ATC, Athletic Trainer, Sports Medicine for Young Athletes, Children’s Hospital ColoradoDid you like this blog post? Then consider subscribing to our blog to receive helpful advice, resources and information for young athletes.