Aside from a snow day here and there, winter is a time that most people spend more time indoors. Most people are moving a little slower, wanting to stay under a blanket and curl up by the fire. The winter is a time of celebration, hearty meals, more snacks and of course hot cocoa- anything to make us a little more comfortable and to hold back the cold, and reduced activity.
Adults are not the only ones that take it easy; kids often are less active in the winter and come out with energy to spare in the spring.
It is exactly at this time when they begin to ramp up activity, that injuries tend to happen.
After spending a whole lot of time at home in the past year, most kids have just not been as active as they were 2 years ago. However, as the spring weather approaches and kids are becoming more active, getting back to school and hanging out with friends, we have been getting calls from worried parents.
Parents who are worried about how their kids will adjust to their new level of activity, or how poorly they have adjusted to their current level of inactivity.
Here are some simple tips to help keep your family physically safe, healthy and to avoid injuries this spring.
Injury Prevention Tips
Slowly ramp up new activities
Our bodies get used to what we do. They are constantly growing and changing, adapting to the stresses we put them through. When we are regularly active our bodies get used to being active.
Our heart and lungs get more efficient, we are able to play for longer without stopping to take a breath. Our muscles get stronger, we can throw the ball faster or jump higher. And we get more coordinated, our movements and motor memory kicks in to make movements easier for us.
It does not take long for our healthy bodies to get weaker with inactivity.
Just like we get used to being active, we get used to being inactive. Except it does not take long at all for things to get weaker; it can happen in a matter of days.
So, when staring a new activity or one that you haven’t done in a while:
Be kind to yourself. Give yourself more time to get into the swing of things.
Be Patient. Don’t expect to be at the same level you were before. Get back into things slowly, try interval training for cardio days or reduce your weights.
For Kids this could be setting a timer for things like bike riding, jumping on the trampoline or swimming. Allowing them to take a rest before getting back out there.
Explore different planes of motion
Think about all the ways you move around during the day.
People tend to spend a lot of time moving forward: running, walking, jumping, biking.
A small amount of time moving backward: a step to the sink, a reach into the back seat.
And almost no time at all moving sideways.
As a result of this our “sideways muscles” can get weaker, leading to difficulty down the road.
Those muscles include the glutes, hip adductors and hip abductors, which are responsible for pelvic stability, balance, and walking. When the muscles on our sides get weak, we lose our stability network.
The foundation of building these muscles often gets missed during childhood. Many of the children we see are in pain due to weakness in these muscles.
A loss of this stability leads to an increase in pain in the low back, hips, knees and ankles. It can also increase the likelihood of an ACL tear in an athlete or other injury on the field.
Challenge yourself and your child in a more dynamic way. Explore strengthening for your “sideways” muscles. Try a sport or exercise where you are moving laterally such as tennis, racquetball, volleyball, or swimming to support these muscles.
Cross training is a wonderful way to give your body the support it needs.
Encourage your child to seek new or different activities to the sport they are most competitive in. Reassure them that it is healthy to have varied interests and taking a break from sport specific training will continue to challenge them and make them healthier overall.
Strengthen, Strengthen, and Strengthen Some More
Strength training is such an integral part of success when you live an active life. Strengthening your muscles will not only make you better at your favorite activity but will also reduce your risk of injury while doing it.
Kids are more highly specialized now than they used to be. The off season keeps getting shorter and shorter. There is more specific exercise for each sport and kids spend more time doing them. In order to be competitive, kids are not encouraged to try other sports or different recreational activities. With so much stress on the body in the same way, all the time, injuries can happen.
This critical component of injury prevention can be started as early as 7, with proper form and training. Beginning a well-rounded strengthening protocol will make sure that no muscle gets left behind.
Of course, strength training looks completely different with kids than with adults.
If your child needs strength training and you are not qualified to provide it, we can help with a FREE consultation to find out what’s going on talking to your neighborhood movement specialists.
Teach your Child to Listen to their Bodies
Every year parents and coaches become more informed about the health and safety of the children in their care.
Even though adults are more educated and aware, teach your child early on to be an advocate for themselves. Teach them what is okay to be feeling and what is not okay.
Kids often to do not experience pain the exact same as adults do. Something that may feel “off” or “just funny” to a child could mean pain later.
Encourage them to confide in you when they are in pain after a practice, not sleeping well, or when they have something important to say.
Listen to and Look at Your Child
Teach your kids to speak up about not feeling well and LISTEN to them. EMPOWER them to feel confident in their voices.
You as the parent, guardian, or coach could be the first person to notice a child limping after a run, moving a little slower than usual or than their peers, or other signs of pain or fatigue.
Don’t just wait for the injury to occur.
Give them rest breaks, begin strengthening or cross training, or just letting the child know you see what they are going through can change their life.
If you notice your child struggling to keep up or in pain, seek help.
Physical therapists are trained to work with people of all ages. To figure out which muscles are not working their best and improving them before an injury occurs. Making sure all their muscles are working properly can help to prevent an injury.
What if my child already has an injury?
If your child has a new injury, first seek medical attention. Sometimes injures can be managed with Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. method, but not all.
Depending on the injury a physician may be the best provider for your child, however, if the injury is musculoskeletal (or involving only muscles and bones) you can take them directly to your local physical therapist.
Maryland, and many other states are “direct access”; meaning you can see them directly without a referral. A trained PT will be able to tell if your child is right for therapy or needs to see another provider.
If your child has an old or existing musculoskeletal injury, NOW IS THE TIME TO SEEK CARE.
It is never too late to rehabilitate an injury.
Yes, the longer you wait the longer and more difficult it can be to achieve results you are looking for. BUT, why wait any longer. The sooner they get in to see a PT the sooner they can excel on the field or the playground.
How Can I Be Sure My Child is Ready to Return To Play or Sports?
If you are unsure, for any reason, if your child is ready to get back into play or sports after a break bring them in for a PT checkup.
At Breakaway Physical Therapy we offer a wellness program to ensure your child is ready for success. Bring them in for a wellness evaluation and a physical therapist will be able to assess important muscles and help to create a unique program addressing any found deficits to ensure health and prevent future injuries.
If your child is already having pain, bring them in for a full physical therapy evaluation. Your therapist will be able to identify any deficits that are leading to the pain or presenting injury and design a plan to get them back to their full playing capacity!
If you are still unsure if your child is a good candidate for PT or our wellness plan, give us a call at 410-721-6333. We will set up a time for one of our physical therapists to chat with you to see which program would be best for you.