Are Youth Soccer Coaches Smarter than Little League Coaches?

pitcherThrowing too many pitches is injuring our little leaguers. The scary thing is, coaches know this and are still putting young players at risk. A group from Case Western Reserve reports,

While 100% (of coaches) were aware of the need to limit the number of pitches thrown by young pitchers to prevent overuse injuries, only 44% of them actually tracked the pitch counts.

Wait a minute! This wasn’t a case of volunteer coaches not getting the memo. One hundred percent of them KNEW the recommendations on pitch count. They just didn’t bother with the recommendations.

So what’s the harm of a few extra pitches? Plenty. Doctors are seeing more and more of a new overuse injury in pitchers called acromial apophysitis. The bones meant to form the top of the shoulder joint during normal development are failing to fuse. Instead, these athletes have swelling, pain and significantly more rotator cuff tears – not to mention a shortened career in baseball.

strikeWhat about our soccer athletes? Are we dealing them the same injuries? Who are we over-training and, inadvertently, subjecting to injury? Let’s be smarter than those little league coaches and more pro-active.

What do soccer players do over and over? 

  • Running, especially high intensity running is high demand for hips and hip flexors, plus very high impact for feet, ankles and knees
  • Striking the ball, especially the powerful impact of foot and ankle with a forced extension at the knee – this includes, striking long balls, corner kicks as well as traditional shooting drills and don’t forget the shooting their are probably doing before you “start” practice?

What joints are at risk?

  • With too much running: hips, knees, and ankles, plus arches and heels
  • With too much striking: feet, ankles, knees, hips and back

We may not think that our practices are overly demanding but “too much” repetition, that is doing the same thing again and again, sets kids up for overuse injuries. If they play other sports or are active in other activities, this can pile on the over-use. And that, as we are seeing in our youth pitchers, may mean delayed or impaired growth of developing bones. Overuse at these ages may even prevent proper joint formation.

What do we do to limit over-use?

We need to adopt our own version of a “pitch count” by monitoring how much wear and tear we are subjecting these kids to. Especially the players who do a lot of training and get lots of game minutes need us to change up what we do in training. This doesn’t need to be “wasted” time. Try some of these:

What if we took one of our practice days and did “non-soccer stuff?”

  • Play basketball, water-polo, roll down the hill, jump to see who can touch the cross bar, tug of war, dodge ball
  • If you must play soccer, do it with a tennis ball, a football or an exercise ball
  • Look how much fun they’re having with the exercise ball:

What if we took half of a practice and played kid games that helped them see the field differently?

What if regularly we had a no-impact practice where we chatted, stretched, visualized and snacked?

  • Played ice breaker games, game films, “good things” from last game, talk nutrition, homework huddles, school woes, favorite teachers, hardest classes

What if you tried doing less and it was more – fewer injuries and more quality training?

  • Players would be fresher, more rested, better connected, and have fuel in the tank for the next training or game day.

It takes a lot of nerve to start a trend. A trend toward safer, stronger play that lasts. You got that nerve?

What games have worked as recovery and fun for your teams? Send them to Fit2Finish so we can feature you on the F2F YouTube channel!

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