“A growing epidemic of preventable sports injuries is dismantling the hopes and dreams of young athletes at an early age.” –
Dr. James Andrews and the STOP (Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention) Sport Injuries Organization.
As April is National Youth Sport Safety Month, it is important to evaluate the quality and quantity of training and competition that your young athletes are exposed to. Tennis is a sport that typically has a very high volume at a young age, and although tennis is an early initiation sport, it should be a late specialization sport. This means that to be highly successful (i.e. earning a college scholarship or dreams of playing professionally) in the sport an individual needs to be exposed to the sport at a young age – typically before 10 years of age. However, it is a late specialization sport. This means that it is important to learn the sport at a young age, but also participate in multiple sports to at least till 12-14 years of age. Over the past decade a number of studies in different sports have consistently shown that athletes that specialize in one sport from a very young age have a greater number of injuries. Some of the most recent research was presented at the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) meeting in San Diego in April. The study is titled “Risks of Specialized Training and Growth in Young Athletes: A Prospective Clinical Cohort Study” and was led by Dr. Neeru Jayanthi (iTPA Certification Commission member) http://www.itpa-tennis.org/certification-commission.html
Below are some of the most relevant notes from the study :
- Between 2010 and 20103, Neeru Jayanthi (iTPA Certification Commission member) and colleagues at Loyola and Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago enrolled 1,206 athletes ages 8 to 18 between who had come in for sports physicals or treatment for injuries.
- There were 859 total injuries, including 564 overuse injuries, in cases in which the clinical diagnosis was recorded. The overuse injuries included 139 serious injuries such as stress fractures in the back or limbs, elbow ligament injuries and osteochondral injuries (injuries to cartilage and underlying bone). Such serious injuries can force young athletes to the sidelines for one to six months or longer.
- Young athletes who spent more hours per week than their age playing one sport – such as a 12-year-old who plays tennis 13 or more hours a week – were 70 percent more likely to experience serious overuse injuries than other injuries.
- The study confirmed preliminary findings - that specializing in a single sport increases the risk of overall injury, even when controlling for an athlete’s age and hours per week of sports activity.
- Young athletes were more likely to be injured if they spent more than twice as much time playing organized sports as they spent in unorganized free play — for example, playing 11 hours of organized soccer each week, and only 5 hours of free play such as pick-up games.
- Athletes who suffered serious injuries spent an average of 21 hours per week in total physical activity (organized sports, gym and unorganized free play), including 13 hours in organized sports. By comparison, athletes who were not injured, participated in less activity – 17.6 hours per week in total physical activity, including only 9.4 hours in organized sports.
- Injured athletes scored 3.3 on researchers’ six-point sports-specialization scale. Uninjured athletes scored 2.7 on the specialization scale. (On the sports specialization scale, an athlete is given one point for each of the following:
- Trains more than 75 percent of the time in one sport;
- Trains to improve skill or misses time with friends;
- Has quit other sports to focus on one sport;
- Considers one sport more important than other sports;
- Regularly travels out of state;
- Trains more than eight months a year or competes more than six months per year.
Dr. Jayanthi offers the following tips to reduce the risk of injuries in young adults:
The iTPA Parent’s Guide To Basic Injury Prevention
- Do not spend more than twice as much time playing organized sports as you spend in gym and unorganized play.
- Do not specialize in one sport before late adolescence.
- Do not play sports competitively year round. Take a break from competition for one-to-three months each year (not necessarily consecutively).
- Take at least one day off per week from training in sports
The iTPA has created a Parent’s Guide To Basic Injury Prevention Course which is specifically designed to help the tennis parent to appropriately work with their junior players to help reduce the chance of injury through appropriate prevention exercises. The course comes with over one hour of practical video instruction showing detailed injury prevention exercises and tutorials, in addition to an 85-page color Workbook. Please see the webpage for a detailed description and sample videos of the course http://www.itpa-tennis.org/parentcourse.html
Perspective below from Dr. Ellen Rome, Head of the Center for Adolescent Medicine at The Cleveland Clinic and a Member of the iTPA Certification Commission (www.itpa-tennis.org/certification-commission) and a member of the USTA Sports Science Committee.
AUDIO clip below:
- How does the brain develop when an athlete is very young?
- Adolescent age and stage is important.
- Understanding the differences between the different stages is important for the Tennis Performance Trainer or Certified Tennis Performance Specialist.
The USTA Serves Special Report, More Than a Sport: Tennis, Education and Health
According to USTA Serves (the national charitable foundation of the USTA), this is the first nationwide study to analyze the educational, behavioral and health benefits for adolescents who participate in tennis. Below you will find the major take-homes from the research; all these points are beneficial to understand to help promote the benefits of tennis – especially to parents. 1) Tennis is a unique catalyst for educational advantage.
Compared to non-athletes as well as the top nine high school sports, tennis athletes devote more time each to homework, report higher grades and are more likely to attend a four-year university.
Remember that this highlights a correlation – not a causation. This means that just playing tennis alone will not cause better grades or going to a four year college. Socio-economic status, parental influence, geography, aptitude among many other factors contribute. 2) Tennis players reported significantly lower rates of suspension from school and other disciplinary measures than participants in other sports as well as non-athletes. 3) Educational advantages among tennis players occurred across and within all family and socioeconomic levels.
“Half of U.S. adolescent tennis participants come from families in which parents have less than high school education, a high school degree only or some college—indicators of middle and lower socioeconomic levels. The perception that tennis is a “country club” sport benefiting only one segment of the population is at most only 50% correct. The educational and social advantages associated with tennis participation were strongest among adolescents from higher-socioeconomic-level families, but still present in families with middle and lower socioeconomic levels and often higher when compared to adolescents who participate in other high school sports or do not participate in sports at all.4) Adolescent tennis players are well-rounded.
The research found that tennis players performed more extracurricular activities and volunteered in their communities at higher rates than other high school athletes and students who did not participate in sports. 5) Tennis contributes to improved adolescent health.
Participation in tennis was associated with lower rates of:
- Cigarette smoking
- Binge drinking
- Marijuana use
- Being overweight
- Being obese6) Adolescent participation:
• Whites: 77%
• Blacks: 9%
• Hispanics: 14%
• Male: 47%
• Female: 53%
• Live in the South: 33%
• Live in the West: 26%
• Live in the North Central States: 20%
• Live in the Northeast: 20%
Here is the link for the executive summary of The USTA Serves Special Report, More Than a Sport: Tennis, Education and Health http://assets.usta.com/assets/822/15/More_than_a_Sport_Executive_Summary-v7-web.pdf
Here is the link for the full report of the survey data of The USTA Serves Special Report, More Than a Sport: Tennis, Education and Health http://assets.usta.com/assets/822/15/More_than_a_Sport_Full_Report_2.27.13.pdf
iTPA's Executive Director Dr. Mark Kovacs was interviewed on today's ParentingAces radio show and discussed fitness and injury prevention for the junior tennis player. You can listen to the hour-long recorded version at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/ur10s/2012/11/19/parenting-aces
Thanks ParentingAces for the opportunity, and the great discussion on fitness for the junior tennis player. If anyone has any more questions feel free to post them!
"Around the world, at all ages, boys throw better — a lot better — than girls. Studies of overhand ball throwing across different cultures have found that pre-pubescent girls throw 51 to 69 percent of the distance that boys do, at 51 to 78 percent of the velocity. As they get older, the differences increase; one U.S. study found that girls age 14 to 18 threw only 39 percent as far as boys (an average of about 75 feet vs. about 192 feet)."
Although most tennis people know that girls struggle to throw as well as boys, it is something that needs to be trained at a young age. With practice and the correct technical work, girls can throw very well, but it requires the coach/parent to focus on tennis-specific throwing mechanics rather than just throwing the ball forward. The big problem most people have is that they do not focus on throwing with a high trajectory (i.e. long tossing) while also trying to maintain a positive shoulder-over-shoulder position (think a good tennis serve position at contact). If the athlete throws with these mechanics at a young age, she will develop good throwing mechanics that will translate into a more effective tennis serve and should help her also be able to hit an effective kick serve. Take read of the article below from the Washington Post that provides some more statistics.
As the US Open has started, it is worth reflecting on what it takes for players to achieve success at the highest level. It is important to understand as a coach, trainer, therapist or parent how difficult it is to become the best in the world at anything. Remember that making the US Open main draw means that you are in the top 128 players in the world at the time. This is an outstanding accomplishment. In any profession – lawyer, doctor, plumber, teacher, coach, therapist etc – it is unbelievably difficult to reach the pinnacle. Tennis is a global sport with over 100 countries producing professional players and to rise to the top is very challenging. Many people talk about how difficult it is to make it in today’s game.
One discussion point that comes about in coaching and training circles is about how best to handle young players who have the dreams of one day stepping on the court at the grand slam tournaments and making a successful living as a professional tennis player. As a coach or influencer this mindset and goal should be 100% embraced and encouraged. At the young age (i.e. before puberty) potential is a beautiful thing. It is too early to tell which players will and will not make it as a professional. Many factors come into play during puberty (height, social factors, training interest, motivation, financial resources etc) and this many times helps to separate players. However, before puberty it is not unreasonable for every player to have the dream and goal of becoming a professional tennis player.
It should make it very clear that to become successful in the sport of tennis is very, very difficult. The odds are small to make it big in tennis. However, if you are working with young players, especially before puberty, it is too early to tell who is going to make at the highest level so as mentors, coaches, parents or influencers, it is necessary to encourage the dream, make it possible for the young player to believe, while also making it very clear that to be successful at the highest levels it requires a lot more than writing down on a piece of paper that “ I will become no. 1 in the world and win the US Open.” The amount of daily work that needs to be put in, in a daily structured way (i.e. deliberate practice) is what most people do not successfully accomplish. Many people have the dreams and aspirations of the end result, but very few are willing to do the required daily work needed. This, unfortunately, is where the disconnect is in many situations. Setting lofty goals at a young age is a positive, but it must be made clear that to achieve lofty goals, the athlete, and the support team of the athlete, needs to put the work in to achieve these lofty goals. Without the daily work, the goals are unrealistic. It is unfortunate that most players, coaches, trainers and therapist do not realize the intensity of work and the daily engagement needed to truly achieve success.
Set Expectations High, But Clearly Define What Is Needed to Achieve These High Expectations!Don't forget to enter our US Open Player Fitness Challenge Contest! Details here.
I think we all understand the many lifelong benefits of tennis play from a health, fitness and wellness perspective. However, much of the interest has traditionally been in how tennis can improve an individual’s life as they age, cardiovascular health, bone density, muscle strength, etc. These are all important benefits of tennis play and will be discussed in other posts. As tennis provides so many physical and mental benefits, it should be considered a major tool in reversing the disturbing trend in childhood obesity levels in developed nations. It is well documented that tennis players have below average body fat compared to the normal population and this makes sense due to the activity level (calories burned), but other factors also contribute to this including the lifestyle that most tennis players live by. Better diets, active friends, a peer group that has a similar interest in physical activity among many others. Although exercise alone is not the answer for avoiding childhood obesity, it is a key part of the equation. Let’s look at how playing tennis regularly helps you to avoid childhood obesity.
We have become a society of little movement, and even schools are eliminating basic physical education requirements. When you don’t move, your body does not require many calories to function on a daily basis. Exercise not only improves your body’s fitness and finesse, but also burns calories that would otherwise become transformed into fat. That’s the basic equation: if you eat more calories than you burn, then the excess calories become stored as fat for the future. And if you continue to eat more than you burn off, the fat storage will accumulate more and more. This simple concept seems to be lost on a vast number of the population. Too much food, too little exercise. Tennis can increase the exercise component of this equation.
Although tennis players have lower body fat than the general population, exercise alone is not enough to avoid obesity. We have become a society that is sugar and starch addicted. We like “fast foods,” which make us feel good in the short run but which lead to obesity if left unchecked in the long run. Here is the problem. Rather than eating a well-balanced diet that includes fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grains, and protein through meat, fish or soy. If the calories from sweet and starch foods are not burned off through exercise, then they become stored as fat. Many people mistakenly think that fat tissue comes from eating fatty foods, but the reality is that most fat tissue in the body is from consuming too many sweets and starches. Better education about how this process works is needed through coaches, trainers and medical professionals. Unfortunately this simple concept is not well understood by the majority of the population.
Eating properly sounds easy, but it is not occurring sufficiently throughout society. It requires good habits on a daily basis. Many people prefer a sweet snack and this is in part because the sweet foods send signals to the brain that cause immediate gratification. Avoiding childhood obesity means developing good, daily food habits and letting go of the instant gratification of sweet foods. As children are even more interested than adults in instant gratification, they are the most vulnerable to problems with diet. This is compounded if their parent or caregiver provides these sweet and salty foods. Children will eat what is provided to them, so good choices by the caregivers are the most vital link in the entire obesity question.
Movement with Good Eating
Ultimately, avoiding childhood obesity is a way of life. Remember the simple equation: if you eat more calories than you burn off, the excess calories become stored as fat. Excess fat storage leads to obesity, which leads to many health problems. A combination of regular tennis play and healthy eating habits is a sure bet for not only avoiding childhood obesity but also for living a healthy life.
So take this information and spread the word about the many benefits of tennis play and help to do your part in reversing the childhood obesity problem.
Coach Loren Landow provides his insight in the above audio clip about some similarities and differences between tennis athletes and athletes in other sports, especially with respect to training the young athlete. The ITPA thanks Loren for his support and the work he does developing athletes (especially tennis athletes). Loren Landow, CSCS, USAW
Coach Landow has trained thousands of athletes in numerous sports to maximize their athletic potential while reducing their risk of injury. He has successfully trained over 400 professional athletes, including 17 NFL All-Pros. Coach Landow has trained the USA U-19 Rugby National Team, over 60 nationally and internationally ranked high school and collegiate tennis players, Olympians and many other athletes in the NHL, MLB, MLS,UFC and NCAA. In addition, Coach Landow serves as a consultant for several professional organizations. Most importantly, Landow is highly sought after for his ability to analyze and correct biomechanics. He is a certified Muscle Activation Techniques Specialist, utilizing soft tissue massage techniques to correct imbalances and enhance muscle regeneration. Through his various innovative methods Coach Landow has made dramatic improvements in an athlete’s speed, power, agility, coordination. In addition, Coach Landow serves on the S.P.E.E.D. advisory counsel, a position reserved for the top performance coaches in the country. Coach Landow is also a national and International presenter and speaker for the leading associations in the performance industry.
Check out Loren Landow at www.lorenlandowperformance.com
Below is a great short audio interview focused on some major areas that parents and coaches need to be aware of regarding young tennis athletes. Anne Pankhurst is an expert in young tennis athlete development with specific emphasis on growth and development. Anne is currently the Education Consultant to the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR) with responsibility for developing coach education materials and has a specific expertise in young tennis athlete development. She is the Player Development consultant for USA Football, working to construct six separate player age based coach qualifications. Anne also works with players and coaches in several tennis academies in the USA and the UK.
Previously Anne was Coach Education Director for the LTA, before becoming Manager of Coaching Education for USTA. In both positions she developed player development pathways, including USTA’s Progressive Development of a High Performance Player. She is responsible for designing the Player Progressive Development Model (PPDM) for USA Football, as well as models for 12 other sports. Anne also provided a more in-depth interview aimed at the tennis performance specialist which is available at the ITPA Inner Circle website for members. Register for TPT or CTPS today and you'll gain access to this important site!
Press the grey arrow below to play the audio. www.itpamembers.org