The Trainers Table: Lessons Learned From A Sports-Related Injury
Lessons Learned From A Sports-Related Injury
Growing up playing sports in Hanover, Massachusetts, my first sports related injury came during the summer of 1993 when I was just 13 years old. I was playing baseball on the Hanover All-Star team and had just been recruited to a pitching development program in Hingham. At this particular camp, I threw hundreds of balls a day while still competing in 2-3 games per week. When I wasn’t pitching I was playing shortstop.
At the age of 13 years old I was already treated like a 25-year-old professional pitcher. Here I was, 5 feet 10 inches, 160 pounds, throwing 75 miles per hour. As the camp progressed through the summer, I could feel various pains in my arm. The only obstacle was I didn’t have a team of doctors, strength coaches and statisticians reviewing my aliments, pitch count and rest and recovery.
Halfway through the summer I was pitching the game of my life. It was the top of the sixth inning and I only allowed one hit. The count was 2 and 1 when I received the sign for a fastball from my catcher. I wound up, delivered the pitch and crack, I shattered my elbow.
Multiple factors lead to my injury, but the main cause was overuse. I spent the whole summer working on my craft and neglected what my body was telling me. Here I was, 13 years old and coaches were telling me I was going to be the next Roger Clemens. Little did they know that I would never be able to pitch again.
Most athletes would have been devastated by this injury. Although I was disappointed I would not be able to play baseball, I turned to what I could do that summer: tennis. I taught myself to play at a competitive level using my non-dominant left arm to stay active. Tennis is a fast-paced sport that works on coordination, speed and agility. These newfound skills led to success in my other core sports: football, basketball and hockey.
As a strength coach now, my advice to parents is to give their kids a time to rest and recover. Overuse injuries have become an epidemic in youth athletics. Kids need at least 2 to 3 months off from a specific sport. The body needs a recovery period to avoid overuse injuries. Almost half of sports injuries in adolescents stem from overuse.
Stop specializing in sports. The risks of non-contact and contact injuries increase drastically with year-round athletes. In terms of planning, athletes from the ages of 9 to 14 should play a specific sport four to five months of the year. The remaining seven to eight months should be dedicated to at least two other sports.
In conclusion, I learned a valuable lesson from my shattered elbow about rest and recovery. As I progressed through my athletic career, I used this lesson to my advantage. I mapped out practices, games, strength training, nutrition, rest and recovery. I didn’t specialize in a specific sport until I was 17 years old. This newfound knowledge guided me to a healthy college and professional career.
My last piece of advice is to remember the real importance of youth sports. My father, who delighted in watching his three sons participate in sports told us, whether we were skating on the frozen pond besides our house or competing in front of 17,000 spectators, to have FUN. This guidance led to successful sports careers for all three of his boys.
Prepare to Succeed
Peter Tormey, CPT, PES, OPT