By Dev K. Mishra, M.D., President, Sideline Sports Doc
As the school year ends, kids march (or often limp…) into my office with a common set of nagging injuries that have accumulated over several months. Typically, I often hear, “I’ve got a break coming up now so I can get everything fixed.” How long is that break? Two or three weeks. Hmmmm… How much can we actually fix in that time?
I often tell the kids a story about a young patient of mine back in the late 90’s who was a world class swimmer at age 14. She developed some serious shoulder issues and rather than try to train through the pain, go for some type of quick fix, or try surgery she did something truly remarkable especially for a young high school athlete: she completely stopped swimming and rebuilt her body. This process took many months but she came back better than ever to win multiple Olympic medals and world championships. Very few of the kids I tell this story to believe it has any relevance to them.
This past Sunday an article in the New York Times documented the training regimens of the top ranked men’s tennis players. The essence of the story is that the players have achieved unbelievable levels of physical fitness by paying attention to their whole bodies and not just to hammering tennis balls in training all day long. Most of the players will spend about 2 hours in tennis training and up to 6 hours in other aspects of their health and fitness.
Ok fine, those are super-elite athletes and they are being paid a lot of money to spend their entire day training for their sport. What can a young amateur athlete learn from those players, or from the swimmer’s story?
Ongoing Body Maintenance Pays Great Dividends For The Long Term
The key point is that ongoing body maintenance is extremely important for the competitive young athlete, and becomes even more important if your goal is to achieve an elite level in your sport and compete for a long time.
The hardest part is figuring out the right combination of sport specific practice vs. whole body fitness. For many young athletes pressed for time this may mean skipping one practice per week to substitute modified training or rest. With more serious problems such as ongoing pain affecting performance the best first step is to get proper medical evaluation, usually by a sports medicine physician or physical therapist. If the treatment plan then calls for a certain period of time to heal and improve the condition you’ll need to look into the future and figure out when the most important time to play will be and work backwards from there. For example, if you know that you absolutely must train at 100% at the beginning of August and it will take 6 weeks to fully resume training, you’ll need to start your rehab process at the latest by the middle of June.
Take the summer time to correct those ongoing ailments and you’ll have a much more successful fall and winter.