The arrival of spring means that outdoor track season is upon us and many young athletes are dusting off their running shoes and spikes and heading outside to hit the track. For some, the transition to a new sport season will go smoothly, but often times new training surfaces or changes in daily training can bring new aches and pains. One of the most common places for aches and pains to occur is the knee. Injuries such as Patellofemoral Syndrome (“runner’s knee”), patellar tendinitis, and Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease can leave young athletes on the sidelines. Here are 5 tips to help avoid these injuries and stay on the track this spring:
Building and maintaining strength of the hip and thigh musculature, as well as the abdominal or core musculature, is an important part of knee injury prevention. Exercises such as straight leg raises, hamstring curls, hip bridges, and abdominal planks are great ways to build basic strength. It is always a good idea to seek help from an athletic trainer or physical therapist when beginning exercise programs.
Stretching can help maintain the required range of motion needed for joints to move efficiently and therefore can help to prevent injuries. Using stretches that target the calves, thigh muscles (quadriceps and hamstrings), and hip muscles (glutes and hip flexors) are all beneficial to your knees.
Get in the right shoe for you
Each person has his or her own foot type, which means that not every running shoe will be a good fit. Try to seek out a specialty running store where staff members can find a shoe that fits not only your son or daughter’s foot type, but also their training goals and needs. Columbus is home to several specialty running shops, including Second Sole, Columbus Running Company, Front Runner, and Fleet Feet. Finally, a good rule of thumb is to replace running shoes every 300-500 miles.
When participating in any physical activity it is beneficial to understand the F.I.T. principle. The acronym stands for frequency – how often you run, intensity – the pace at which your run, and time – the length of time spent running. If your son or daughter significantly increases any of these variables, the risk of injury increases also.
Getting enough rest is crucial to young athletes who want to avoid injuries. Try to devote one day per week to complete rest and another day to participating in an activity other than the current, in-season sport practice. In the off-season, being involved in other sports or activities provides new challenges that can help prevent overuse injuries and promote well-rounded athletic development.
Download our free infographic to assess whether your child or teen’s knee pain needs to be examined.
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Tyler Congrove, MS, AT, CSCS, is a certified athletic trainer with Nationwide Children's Sports Medicine and an assistant athletic trainer at Ohio Dominican University.
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