Why your kid is always hurt (or telling you something hurts)
I was recently asked in a podcast interview what is the most common area of concern or lack that I see in young baseball players.
My answer was immediate.
“Athleticism and Strength. No doubt.”
Waaaay too much activity that LOOKS like the sport they play and waaay to little general activity of any other kind.
If you know me, you’re probably rolling your eyes right now. I am always beating this horse. But clearly I need to bang on it some more.
Look I’ll get straight to the point. We have kids that can’t do a push-up playing north of 50 Baseball games per year. That’s not a badge of honor, that’s a red flag.
Have you ever asked an eleven year old or even a 16 year old to stand on one foot for 30 seconds consecutively?? I have...it takes all day(because they’re so weak they can’t do more than about 2seconds at a time).
As long as this continues, kids are going to stay hurt.
PERIOD. Knees are going to continue to ache, mystery pains are going to continue popping up that parents just label “growing pains”. This does not just go for the baseball players. You would be shocked at the parallels I see between volleyball and baseball, it is uncanny. Kids are increasingly weaker and weaker and they play increasingly more games and more games every year at a younger age because they think that’s what they have to do to get “noticed”, and there is a lot of money to be made from providing playing opportunities all year.
Here is the funny part to me though, you hardly ever hear about this stuff with the football kids.
A) They can’t play all year long due to the nature of the game.
B) Nobody in the football community argues with a kid living in the weight room and getting strong at a young age.
That. Is. Not. A. Coincidence.
Ask your kid to squat their butt below their knees while keeping their feet flat on the ground. If they can’t do it, your kid has a strength or mobility deficiency.
If your kid is that flexible kid that that always has cold hands and can put their hands flat on the ground with no knee bend but can’t Squat their butt to the ground without their knees “caving” towards each other, or heels coming off the ground, your athlete has a strength deficiency.
What is a “strength deficiency” and why should I care?
Strength deficiencies are when a person doesn’t have enough strength to perform a given task. In this case, Squat their butt to the ground as if going number two without a toilet.
why you need to care, is because this kid isn’t strong enough to naturally prevent injury. Their muscles are not strong enough to offer the protection they were meant to offer.
If your kid is one of those naturally strong husky kids and they can’t do it, your kid has a Mobility (flexibility) deficiency. Most likely in the ankles and/or hips.
What is a Mobility deficiency and why should I care?
A Mobility deficiency is the lack of ability for your body to get into a position it technically was designed to be able to get into. Like touching your toes, crossing your legs, going number two in the woods like God designed us to do, etc.
Why you need to care, this kid, during sport, is asking the muscles/ligaments/tendons/joints, not only to stretch/bend/move to positions it has never been before, they’re also asking the body to be strong enough to not be injured in those positions. How strong you gonna be in that position if you’ve never BEEN IN that position before?? Exactly.
One more term you need to know about before we continue is Competitive Load.
What is competitive load? And why should I care?
Competitive Load is the amount of competitive reps an athlete gets per year. How much time does your athlete spend in highly focused environments practicing a particular sport?
How much time does your kid spend in a uniform, competing?
Basically those two put together is what I consider the “competitive load”. You aren’t really looking for a specific number or calculation. There is really no point in that. It is simply a term to help this concept resonate.
I know what this makes you think “Who cares?” We had no idea what this stuff was growing up, and we are fine.
Yeah well, You didn’t play 60 baseball games per year as a 7 year old either. That is ludicrous by the way. Not something to be proud of.
You also threw a ton more rocks, jumped more creeks, played more tag, rode more bikes, and played more smear the.....kid with the ball.
This stuff was our general preparation training.
So basically, by accident, and how capitalism works(don’t you dare turn this into a political discussion you hippies!), we have skewed the balance between general prep work and competitive load. General Prep work has gone down, and competitive load has gone through the roof.
Because of the world we live in, child safety concerns, technical advancements, etc kids aren’t able to do as much running, jumping, throwing, etc.
Look, I live in a nice neighborhood and I’m not comfortable sending my daughter outside by herself. It’s just different now. So don’t just immediately blame the kids like everyone else does when you think about this. It’s multifaceted. It’s not JUST them being lazy, technology addicted shut-ins.
Why does this matter?
Explosiveness in a competitive environment is different from any other movement the human body makes. You don’t tear your UCL playing catch, you don’t pull your hamstring jogging.
Fight or Flight gives us an extra “gear”.
Remember the old saying “You have to crawl before you walk? It applies to how muscles work as well.
In God’s grand design our muscles have two main purposes.
1) To maintain and protect the alignment of our joints. Basically to act as a moving casts for our bones.
2) Performance. Remember performance is movement. From getting off the toilet, to throwing a fastball, to walking upstairs, to running a 40 yard dash and everything in between. It all falls under the category of “Performance”.
So basically what we are doing is expecting a bunch of kids to be proficient at the second category while basically skipping over the first one. Their “casts” are not able to do their job. Their “casts” are either too weak, or not able to flex to the positions needed during competition.
So what do we do about it?
Well you can decrease the competitive load and maybe they can get away with playing Fortnite more and not getting hurt because they’re not playing as many games. But I don’t think this is much of an option for most people reading this.
If competitive load is going to stay the same, the general activity and strengthening level is going to need to go up. For younger kids, there is the “Get your butt outside and play!” Option. If this doesn’t fit what your family has going on, shoot me an email and let’s talk about our general athleticism program.
Our programs are for all 10 year olds and older. We will admit 8 and 9 year olds on an individual basis. Obviously the program for a 10 year old looks much different from a 15 year old, As your kid gets older, the need for a well designed strength and conditioning program will become more and more important. I say that so that we are all on the same page that our programs evolve with the athlete as they age. Athletic development is a LONG TERM endeavor and needs to be treated as such.
So as I said previously, shoot me an email at Michael@EAPerformancellc.com and let’s talk about what we can do for your athlete.
One final note: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention there is a lot more to understanding injury than what I’ve discussed here. Postural issues, gait issues, congenital laxity are just a few off top of my head. But what I’ve discussed here is an attempt to get parents and athletes to see the ”big picture”.