Although physical activity can be hugely beneficial for kids and teens, the rise in sports injuries among young athletes is a significant concern. There are a number of reasons as to why hospital visits are trending upward, and one major factor is improper training technique.
Because young players have changing muscle mass and growing bones, they require not just sport-specific instruction, but also general training in an important skill like deceleration.
A great deal of practice time goes into teaching young athletes how to get faster and turn more quickly. These skills lend themselves to numerous sports, including baseball, football, basketball, tennis, and volleyball. Even gymnastics involves sprinting in many of its floor exercises.
But deceleration, which involves learning how to slow down and change direction safely before re-accelerating, is equally important. In many cases, it's actually more crucial for injury prevention than learning to increase speed.
Deceleration training is more than simply slowing down as quickly as possible. It involves a professional who looks at the body mechanics of a particular athlete, and factors in the type of sport he or she plays. For example, a teenage girl who plays basketball will have different deceleration techniques than a middle-school boy in football.
But there are some commonalities when it comes to benefits. Deceleration training prevents numerous injuries, particularly ACL tears that might result from improper turns at high speed.
The training can also improve sports performance. Although some people might think that teaching kids to slow down would hinder their ability to gain speed and endurance, the opposite is true. Because deceleration teaches body control at a higher level, young athletes are able to increase skill in a sport. For example, tennis players who only develop acceleration will excel at one movement for a swing, but will have difficulty changing direction, which will weaken subsequent shots.
If you have a young athlete — or more than one — who spends a great deal of time on practice drills, consider introducing the concept of deceleration into their training. Most likely, their knees will thank you in the long run.
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