Is It Healthier to Play More Than One Sport?

By Tara Hackney for Athletico Physical Therapy

Is It Healthier to Play More Than One Sport?

There is an estimated 30-45 million school aged kids playing organized sports each year.  Lately, there has also been a trend of young athletes training for sports at earlier ages and specializing in one sport with a goal of elite status. But is it healthier to play more than one sport?


What is Sport Specialization?

Sport specialization is defined as year-round training (greater than 8 months per year) for a single main sport, and/or quitting all other sports to focus on that sport. Sports specialization definitions exclude athletes who perform a high volume of intense training in a single sport throughout the year but still compete in other sports simultaneously, as well as athletes who train intensely in a single sport during parts of the year with variable year-round involvement. Although sports specialization is trending, there may be more benefits in playing multiple sports.

The Benefits of Playing Multiple Sports

Data shows that early sport diversification is more likely to lead to valuable physical, cognitive and psycho social skills for the young athlete. In fact, participation in multiple sports in developing years (ages 0-12) may lead to transfer of skills between sports. What’s more, multi-sport participation tends to result in better long term performance and an increase in lifetime enjoyment of physical activity and recreational sports participation. There is also some data indicating unorganized free play may potentially have a protective effect from serious overuse injuries.

It is important to note that the focus should be placed on strength and neuromuscular fitness for development of the entire athlete for competence, confidence, connection and character. The International Olympic Committee suggests waiting until at least puberty before committing to sports specialization. There is limited evidence to suggest that specialization before the age of 12 is necessary for adult elite performance. Furthermore, early diversification does not appear to hinder elite level participation in sports later in life.

Risks of Early Sports Specialization:

  • Burnout
    • Lack of enjoyment
    • High stress or anxiety
    • Mood disturbances
    • Decreased motivation
  • Isolation from peers
  • Lack of development of neuromuscular skills for injury prevention
  • Lack of necessary rest from repetitive use of same body part
  • Increased risk of overuse injury
  • Reduced motor skill development
  • Lost opportunity for fun

Recommendations to avoid burnout and injury:

  • Avoid over-scheduling and excessive time commitment
  • Use a valid and reliable tool to monitor signs of burnout
  • Emphasize skill development and fun
  • Provide opportunity for free, unstructured play
  • Emphasize lifelong physical activity skills
  • Avoid specialization until at least puberty
  • Limit specialized training to less than 16 hours per week or do not exceed hours per week greater than the athlete’s age
  • Good communication between coaches and parents

Staying Healthy and Active

There are many health benefits to playing sports for people of all ages. Regardless of specializing in one sport or playing many sports, it is important that athletes enjoy the time that they spend playing sports. Should an injury occur during sport, click the link below to schedule a complimentary injury screening at your nearest Athletico location.

Schedule a Complimentary Injury Screen

3 Traits of a Successful Pitcher

By Paul Kohler, MS, OTR/L, CHT for Athletico Physical Therapy

Henry Chadwick is credited with creating the first baseball statistics in the late 1800’s. To gauge a batter’s success, he formulated the batting average (hits divided by at-bats), and for pitchers, the ERA (earned runs given up per 9 innings pitched). Today, with groups like Fangraphs.com and the Society for American Baseball Research, there are mind boggling ways to analyze and predict the performance of baseball players.

No matter how you dice up the numbers, the pitcher’s ultimate responsibility is to make it difficult for the other team to score runs. This is why the ERA has become the standard measurement for a pitcher’s success, or failure. Keep your ERA low and you’re a success!  But we all know it’s not that easy. Just ask the countless number of ex-players who never made it to the big leagues. So what do the guys who make it have that the other guys don’t?

Athleticism

P.J. Finigan, pitching coach at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, puts athleticism at the top of his list when it comes to traits of successful pitchers. On Insidepitching.com he states that “having the athletic ability to consistently repeat their delivery” and having “the athleticism to be able to make mechanical changes when needed” are both characteristics that pitchers should have.

The need for this type of pitcher exists at all levels, and is important to all coaches. In scientific terms, athleticism is the equivalent of efficient kinematics and biomechanics. Slow motion video analysis has given researchers the capacity to break down the most effective and efficient pitching mechanics. This includes the pitcher’s posture at various points of delivery, appropriate stride lengths, hip rotation, balance points, as well as angles in the legs, hips, shoulders and arms.

Dr. Glen Fleisig, author of numerous studies on baseball throwing, suggests that one key to future success is training proper mechanics at a young age. As younger pitchers hit growth spurts and develop larger musculoskeletal bodies, their velocity also increases. Those who are already throwing with good mechanics are less likely to get injured, while making it easier to fine tune their delivery and focus on improving their performance.

Work Ethic

Work ethic starts with passion.  As quoted by Wayne Gretzky, “Maybe it wasn’t talent the Lord gave me, maybe it was the passion.” In his book, “the Sports Gene,” David Epstein devotes a whole chapter on the genetics of work ethic, drive and intrinsic motivation. Based on animal research, he postulates that while human drive to “work hard” is part nurture, there is a strong correlation to our genetic make-up. Although any pitcher can improve his or her performance by working with pitching and strength coaches, those who do extra work on their own will most likely outperform their competition.

Successful pitchers spend time alone fine tuning their mechanics, running for cardiovascular endurance, strength training to improve performance and reduce risk of injury, and studying other successful pitchers.  There are many quotes that characterize this type of athlete, such as “going the extra mile,” “giving it 110 percent,” “a gym rat,” “a student of the game,” etc.      

Intelligence

Yogi Berra told us that “Baseball is 90 percent mental, and the other half physical.” I didn’t like math either Yogi, so this makes perfect sense to me. As mentioned above, to be a successful pitcher you must keep your ERA low. This means getting more batters out than you let score.

The key to getting outs is keeping the batter off balance. It would be nice to strike everyone out, but even flame throwers who regularly hit 95 MPH or greater can’t strike everyone out. There are a few ways to keep batters off balance. One is to throw very hard. This decreases the time a hitter has to see the ball, and increases the chances they will not make good contact. But what if you don’t throw hard?

Other ways to keep a batter off balance include ball movement and changes in location. Having the capacity to throw a ball to the location you would like (athleticism), along with keeping the batter guessing where the ball will go next, places the advantage in the pitcher’s hands (literally). A successful pitcher will use past experiences and formulate a strategy to always keep the batter uncertain and off balance.

Stay Healthy

In addition to the traits listed above, pitchers must pay attention to their bodies and stay healthy in order to be successful at their position. Although some discomfort in the throwing arm is normal after a pitching session, this discomfort should be monitored and addressed if it doesn’t subside or becomes worse. When this occurs, it is a good idea to contact your nearest Athletico location to schedule a complimentary injury screening.

Schedule a Complimentary Injury Screen

8 Off-Season Golf Training Exercises

By Travis Orth for Athletico Physical Therapy

With the unexpected warm weather we have been experiencing recently, it is likely that many of us have wanted to get out on the links sooner than later. Hopefully the wave of warm weather we have been experiencing will continue and allow for an early start to the golf season. Before the start of the season, however, it is a good idea to tune-up your body. With a few weeks of preparation, you can bring your game to the next level in 2017.

When it comes to strength characteristics of highly proficient golfers, a 2007 study shows that a group of golfers with a handicap index of < 0 displayed increased hip, torso and shoulder strength along with greater shoulder range of motion compared to golfers with a handicap index from 10-20.1  What’s more, this study demonstrated that highly proficient golfers also displayed improved single leg stance balance compared to the 10-20 handicap group. The greater strength, flexibility and balance within the low handicap group likely allows for improved posture, sequencing and timing to more consistently hit accurate golf shots on the center of the face of the club. This theory was supported in the study as the self-reported driving distance of the low handicap group was greater than the 10-20 handicap group. Although not proven, the differences in physical characteristics between the two groups likely accounts for some of the increased driving distance.

A separate study had golfers complete an eight week training program focusing on improving flexibility, strength and balance.2  The golfers were instructed to complete the exercises 3-4 times a week, with aspects of golf performance being re-assessed at the conclusion of the training program. This study found that golfers displayed improved club velocity, ball velocity, carry distance and total distance at the end of the training program.

These two studies emphasize the importance of maintaining good overall physical conditioning, as doing so can directly translate to improved performance on the course. The following are exercises from the eight week training program that you can use to help enhance your game for the upcoming season:

golf off season training knees to chestDouble knees to chest: Lie on back, grasp knees and bring to chest. Hold for 30 seconds.

 

 

golf off season training kneeing lunge

 

Kneeling lunge: Kneel with one leg, put the other leg in front at a 90 degree angle and push forward. A stretch will be felt in the kneeling leg. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat on the opposite side.

 

Seated trunk rotation with club: Sit on a chair, hold a club behind your neck and rotate torso to the right as far as possible without pain. Hold at end-range for 30 seconds. Repeat to the opposite side.

golf off season training seated trunk rotation with club    golf off season training seated trunk rotation with club

Standing hip abduction: Stand on one leg with elastic resistance tubing attached to the opposite ankle and bring leg out away from your body.  Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

golf off season training standing hip abduction   golf off season training standing hip abduction

Standing hip adduction: Stand on one leg with elastic resistance tubing attached to the opposite ankle and bring leg toward your body.  Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

golf off season training standing hip adduction   golf off season training standing hip adduction

golf off season training static front squatStatic front squat: While standing feet shoulder width apart, squat until knees are at a 45 degree angle to the ground.  Hold this position for 30 seconds.

 

 

 

Single-leg stances on the floor: With hands ongolf off season training single leg stances the hips, balance on one foot without letting opposite foot touch the ground.  If needed stand next to a counter top or railing and use hands to help prevent falling while completing the exercise.  Attempt to stand for 30 seconds without loss of balance.

 

 

golf off season training single leg stancesSingle-leg stances on padding: Repeat the single leg stance exercise, but to increase the challenge stand on a foam padding or rolled up towel.  Again, if necessary, use hands to lightly hold onto a countertop or sturdy piece of furniture to help prevent falling.  Attempt to hold for 30 seconds without loss of balance.

 

To speak with an Athletico Physical Therapist about other golf-related exercises, request an appointment at an Athletico near you.

Don’t Let Fear Keep You Out of the Game

By Tara Hackney for Athletico Physical Therapy

Don’t Let Fear Keep You Out of the Game

Injuries in sports are common and can occur at any age and at any time – including practice or competition. One of the consequences of injury can include fear of re-injury when the athlete returns to play. Fear can potentially be a limiting factor in rehabilitation and recovery. However, there are ways to address these psychological concerns during recovery to help athletes return to play with more confidence.


Physical and Psychological Recovery

Rehabilitation programs traditionally have three distinct phases: acute injury phase, repair phase and remodeling phase. These phases are based on the three stages of the healing process and have proven to be effective in assisting injured athletes to return to their sport.1 That said, these phases do not necessarily incorporate the psychosocial aspects involved with injury and recovery.

Examples of the types of psychosocial challenges injured athletes may face include frustration and depression due to their sudden lack of sport involvement. As they move further into the stages of rehabilitation, some athletes may experience apathy, and poor adherence (too much activity or too little activity) indicating lack of motivation or impatience to return to sport. More examples of psychosocial issues injured athletes may face include decreased self-esteem, anger and fear of re-injury.

Can Fear Be Measured?

Despite the overall emotional responses of athletes improving during post-operative care, studies have noted that “fear” is the most prominent emotion at the time that athletes are returning to activity.4  Subjective questionnaires are the current standard to measure cognitive and emotional responses to an injury. These self-report questionnaires can measure symptoms, disability, pain and emotion. Unfortunately, these surveys have limitations as they are reported by the athlete and “fear” or “lack of confidence” can be interpreted with negative connotations. Furthermore, psychological states following injury may differ from one individual to another. However, objective testing for psychological readiness for return to play is not backed by current evidence at this time.

Who Can Help Athletes with Fear?

An integrated model shows the importance of a team approach to rehabilitation of injured athletes. A coordinated effort between the athlete, doctor, parents, coaches, physical therapist and athletic trainer can assist in a successful and confident return to play. Sport psychologists can also assist in persistent fear for athletes. A sport psychologist is trained to assist the athlete with psychological preparation for competition and the mental and emotional demands of the sport. They can assist in a variety of psychological skills including building confidence, improved focus, coping with anxiety and dealing with pressure.5 Goal setting, imagery, positive self-talk, and relaxation strategies have been found useful in helping athletes cope with pain, stress and anxiety. These strategies also help to address self-efficacy, self-esteem and confidence-related apprehensions, as well as concerns with rehabilitation motivation and adherence.

Strategies to Support Psychosocial Influences during Rehabilitation

  • Keep the athlete involved with their team during injury rehab
  • Create short-term goals
  • Use a variety of exercises for rehabilitation to prevent boredom and improve motivation
  • Allow the athlete to have input in their rehabilitation
  • Use an integrated approach
  • Good communication between the athlete, coach, parents, doctor, physical therapist, athletic trainer and possibly a sports psychologist

Returning to Play

Injury can occur when playing sports. However with appropriate rehabilitation, both physical and emotional recovery is possible to get athletes back on the field with confidence.

Should an injury occur during sport, click the link below to schedule a complimentary injury screening at your nearest Athletico location.

Schedule a Complimentary Injury Screen