For many reasons, this gross oversight needs to be addressed. A young athlete's psyche, conditioning, understanding of physical injuries and prevention of sport related injuries can only improve if our current system demands better biomechanical awareness for our youths. Dads make sure there are no deaths during a game, but it's time we provide more sophistication, education and information to all of those involved. Once these kids reach high school, there is still a gross deficit in biomechanical and conditioning awareness, but if kids in elementary and junior high school can be introduced at a young age to the A, B, C's of physical wellness, then the program should carry over into later years.
Although there are many similarities between assessment and conditioning for both youths and adults, likewise, there are many differences. These differences need to be highlighted to those professionals who have the opportunity to work with this age group and promote the importance of improved knowledge, awareness and conditioning of the neuromusculoskeletal and biomechanical system. In short, each child entering the sports arena needs to be fully evaluated, informed of the structural corrections that need to be made, and managed through those corrections. An awareness of psychological influences will help any professional working with kids. As critical psychological and physical improvements are made, a more intense introductory conditioning program can be implemented.
Every pro athlete has their own jacket. This jacket is a detailed diary of all injuries, treatments and improvements made during their pro career. This jacket follows an athlete wherever they go. If drafted, they have it with them. If taken in free agency, they have it with them. Simply put, it is their life history as an athlete, and that information is valuable to many people for many reasons.
Knowing the importance of this jacket, all athletes, including our kids, should start immediately tracking all of this valuable information. Having the ability to track biomechanical and psychological information becomes invaluable in many situations. Knowing what conditioning was done prior to certain injuries provides any coach or consultant with tremendous information. This seems only logical, as record keeping for all pertinent information can only help. It would contain each year's exam findings, subjective findings, illnesses, injuries, surgeries, medications, food supplements, etc. It would also document, as detailed as anyone would like, work-out programs done throughout the year. This would basically be a blue print of each child's athletic life, based around each year's biomechanical evaluations.
Once these evaluations are done, the findings must be interpreted properly and corrective treatments, therapies and exercises need to be employed. These treatments and modalities can and should extend into the season, in an effort to both improve any distortions found on the initial exam, as well as prevent any mid-season blow-out that might be avoidable with proper recommendations. And we should never lose sight of the bigger picture here; we want to help these young athletes develop into sound adults without the ramifications of burn-out and long term athletic abuse that so many retired athletes experience today.
The Tripod Evaluation
The overall fitness of youths in this country has greatly declined over the past 40 years. It should become everyone's responsibility to help seek improvement. Sports is one of the viable avenues to begin to make changes, as exercise and conditioning is an automatic component of any sports program. All this can begin with a sportsmedicine system willing to evaluate kids for more than classic medical conditions. A tripod program, consisting of 1) an understanding of the psychological profile, 2) a full biomechanical evaluation and 3) a logical fitness/conditioning program based on the sport of interest or fitness level of the child.
It is important to establish a communication and rapport with all kids you work with. If working with a group, it's easy to hide behind a group presentation and never really have to look each and every child in the eye, but individual success goes way up if each and every child is looked at and communicated to independently. Remember, each child/athlete is moved by reasons totally unique and different from the child next to them, and these uniquities must be found and tapped into.