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8/16/23 blog post

injury prevention vs. sports acceleration program

Children don't move like adults. Learning to move like adults is part of their growth and development, just like developing other skills. Children can typically do all sport-specific movements around age 5, with some variation. This includes skills like running, jumping, kicking, throwing, and pedaling a bike. However, they do not have the smooth, organized, coordinated movements of an adult.

As they get older - up until around age 10-12 - their motor skills get smoother and more coordinated. An older-elementary student can go through the exact same sports motions and techniques as their adult counterparts and look pretty good doing it. This is when many parents are tempted to start a sports acceleration program. Take my advice, don't.

When puberty hits, this coordination falls apart. Athletes move backward in their skills and get more injuries. This is often another time parents are tempted to get them extra coaching. Don't. They need to reduce performance-based work and focus on technique again. Their bodies need to learn how to adapt to their changing proportions and how to perform their skills with their new bodies.

After puberty is complete, some athletes are ready to begin sports acceleration programs, which focus on building strength, power and agility. Others still have gaps in their technique, related to relearning everything during their growth spurt. These teens will get injured very easily in sports acceleration programs and in their chosen sports. They need an injury prevention program that corrects any technique issues they haven't fully re-learned after the adolescent growth spurt.

When in doubt, we recommend an evaluation with an athletic trainer at Dayton Children’s first, to ensure your tween or teen is using optimal technique and coordination for their sport-specific movements. After they achieve this, and only then, are they ready for the sports-acceleration programs.

Think of child athlete development like baking a cake, and sports acceleration is the icing on top. Transitioning to a sports-acceleration program too soon is like removing the cake from the oven too early. You can decorate it with icing and make it look nice, but it will all collapse if you don't fully bake the cake first.

To schedule an appointment with one of Dayton Children's sports medicine providers, visit:

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Lora Scott, MD

division chief sports medicine
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Same or next day sports medicine appointments available without a referral. Schedule now!

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The sports medicine department welcomes phone calls to 937- 641-3939 during our normal business hours of 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.