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You want to play in the pros… Do you even lift?

You want to play in the pros… Do you even lift?

5 Key Takeaways

  1. Youth athletes injury rates are increasing because of early specialization in one sport, overtraining, and increased stresses/expectations
  2. Resistance Exercise Training (RET) benefits include improving speed, power, and performance
  3. Resistance Exercise Training is recommended by numerous world-renowned leading organizations as it lower rates of sports-related injury, increased bone strength index, decreased risk of fractures, and improved self-esteem.
  4. Literature suggests that you are much more likely to injure yourself playing traditional sports than you are performing supervised RET
  5. A Physical Therapist can teach you how to use weights to optimize performance and help you reach your goals

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And Action!

It’s senior night for your school volleyball team, everybody is there to cheer you on – parents watching, best friends in attendance, and even scouts are in the stands. Everything feels right, except for restless nights without sleep, constant fatigue, nagging injuries that you don’t have time to attend to between training for the season and your other 3 sports (club volleyball, school soccer, and club soccer). Even though this should be a celebration, you don’t know if you have the energy or stamina to perform at your best and meet everybody’s expectations. 

Whether your sport is soccer, volleyball, basketball, football, baseball, track & field, cross-country, lacrosse, wrestling, swimming, gymnastics, or wrestling, it can be tough being a youth athlete or even a parent of 

one in the 21st century. This is the age of scouting, social media, and social pressure to perform.

We live in a time where it is normal to have increased internet and screen usage, decreased participation in school clubs, increased sedentary behavior, and an endless array of entertainment options vying for our youth’s attention – netflix, youtube, playstation, Minecraft, to name a few. While obesity is one of the leading causes of disability and disease in children; we sometimes neglect to discuss the other side of the spectrum – the overtrained athlete.

Sports involvement of today’s youth in the U.S. has increased from 35 percent to 42 percent. The downside of this is, parents are choosing only one organized sport (early-overspecialization), or contrarily too many sports. This directly contradicts guidelines of spending less total hours than a child’s age/week, (i.e. a 12 year old should train for no more than 12 hours/week in a given organized sport), and are likely to violate another important guideline of no more than 16 hours/week of any organized sport. Many of these athletes play their given sport year round. Each of these behaviors decreases opportunity for the youth athlete to develop general athleticism and new skills, in addition to increasing the likelihood of an athlete having an overuse injury (>8 months of single sport correlated to increased injury), decreased performance, and decreased on field time subsequent to injuries. (Post et al. 2017; Myer et al. 2015; Blagrove et al. 2017).

Both resistance training and working with an orthopedic or sports physical therapist can help assess where an athlete currently stands, help an athlete recover from injury, and help mitigate injury risk, all while improving performance.

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Benefits of Strength and Lifting Weights

If you care about anything, then it’s probably performance.Time and time again, the evidence shows that you can develop more power, and more strength the weight room which has deemed linked to increased performance! If you don’t believe me, check this out, and this, and this, and this.

Maybe health is more of your thing, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently updated their physical activity guidelines in 2020 to recommend that all individuals, regardless of age participate in >75 vigorous intensity minutes, >150 moderate intensity minutes or a combination of both for aerobic physical activity a week, and strengthening (resistance training) of all major body parts 2-3x/week. Children and adolescents are recommended to participate in such strengthening activities at least 3 times a week

Additionally, The American Academy of Pediatrics indicates that those who do not participate in resistance training are likely at an increased risk for future negative consequences that include higher rates of sports-

related injury, decreased bone strength index, and increased risk of fractures. Resistance training can also help combat obesity by improving weight control and cardiovascular health, and reduce risks of falls later in life (Ciolac et al. 2016).

In fact, musculoskeletal strengthening is effective in decreasing risk of all-cause mortality up to 40%, decreases secondary effects of cancer treatment, and helps counteract harmful effects of inactivity, and metabolic diseases, all while promoting increased bone, muscle, tendon, and cartilage health. What does this mean? This means a stronger, better, faster, and healthier athlete (Maestroni et al. 2020; Saeidifard et al. 2019)

Is Weight Training Even Safe?

Ok, you get it. You should be lifting weights. But maybe you’ve never been taught, and are concerned with it being safe. Maybe you are a parent who has reservations about taking your child to a gym. One persistent barrier to participation in resistance training is the public perception of participation in weight training leading to increased injury. Those who point to the risk of injury associated with weight training often point to incidences of low back pain (LBP). Some even have concerns that lifting weights can damage growth plates and stunt a child’s growth. Do not fret, I am here to tell you that these well-intentioned considerations have simply not been found to be true! In fact, injury rates for weight training are comparable, if not less, in many cases when compared to common sports such as running, soccer, and American Football – 0.27-4 injuries/1000 hours compared to 4-10 injuries/1000 hours for common sports (Aasa et al. 2016; Gardiner et al. 2020)

Why Agile? Why Physical Therapy?

Lifting is safe, enhances your sports performance, and is recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine, the World Health Organization, as described above. Current evidence demonstrates that correct instruction, with focus on technique, can help decrease barriers to resistance training and mitigate incidences of traumatic injury (Stricker et al. 2020). A properly trained physical therapist, who is well versed in weight training principles can help promote recovery from injury, assess any gaps in your athletic performance, and teach you how to properly supplement to prepare you for your athletic goals. No matter what the sport, or where you are in your athletic career, starting a conversation with a qualified orthopedic and sports specialist can help you identify needs specific to your sport, and help you start your weight training journey.

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About the Author: Bryan Wong 

             Bryan is a Bay Area native, Orthopedic Residency trained Doctorate of Physical Therapy. Additionally, he is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Powerlifting Coach. Bryan has a background in dragon boating, competitively lifting weights, and recreational sports. Through his experiences, he has seen first-hand how the lack of exercise and structured physical activity has been to our population’s detriment, both young and old. Through communication, exercise specifically tailored to each patient, hands-on care, and joint decision making, Bryan assures that each patient is listened to and works with each patient to guide them in achieving their goals.





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Blagrove, R. C., Bruinvels, G., & Read, P. (2017). Early sport specialization and intensive training in adolescent female athletes: Risks and recommendations. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 39(5), 14–23.

Cataletto, M. (2020). World Health Organization issues new guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behavior. Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, and Pulmonology, 33(4), 167–167.

Ciolac, E. G., & Rodrigues-da-Silva, J. M. (2016). Resistance training as a tool for preventing and treating musculoskeletal disorders – PubMed. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 46(9).

Gardiner, B., Devereux, G., & Beato, M. (2020). Injury risk and injury incidence rates in CrossFit. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 60(7).

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Maestroni, L., Read, P., Bishop, C., Papadopoulos, K., Suchomel, T. J., Comfort, P., & Turner, A. (2020). The benefits of strength training on musculoskeletal system health: Practical applications for interdisciplinary care. Sports Medicine, 50(8), 1431–1450.

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Myer, G. D., Jayanthi, N., Difiori, J. P., Faigenbaum, A. D., Kiefer, A. W., Logerstedt, D., & Micheli, L. J. (2015). Sport specialization, part I. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach, 7(5), 437–442.

Post, E. G., Trigsted, S. M., Riekena, J. W., Hetzel, S., McGuine, T. A., Brooks, M. A., & Bell, D. R. (2017). The Association of Sport Specialization and Training Volume With Injury History in Youth Athletes. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 45(6), 1405–1412.

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Sommerfield, L. M., Harrison, C. B., Whatman, C. S., & Maulder, P. S. (2020). Relationship between strength, athletic performance, and movement skill in adolescent girls. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Publish Ahead of Print.

Stricker PR, Faigenbaum AD, McCambridge TM; COUNCIL ON SPORTS MEDICINE AND FITNESS. Resistance Training for Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics. 2020 Jun;145(6):e20201011. doi: 10.1542/peds.2020-1011. PMID: 32457216.

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