By Philip Stotter, CEP
Across the United States, nearly 30 million children and teens participate in organized sports every year. Of them, almost 12 percent, or more than 3.5 million, suffer an injury that can cause time out from school, lost participation time, alter their physical development, and contribute to lifelong pain.
Injuries that include muscle strains, stress fractures, and concussions are becoming more common among young athletes as they face an increasingly competitive culture and a drive to succeed. The rise of traumatic brain injuries as a result of impact sports and an increase in knee injuries have made innovative treatment options vital to the future of young athletes. Improved sports technology and the unique age specific testing programs they include are helping young student-athletes recover faster as well as prevent the next injury.
Children and adolescents are a unique cohort of athletes. They are actively learning and developing new skills, not only honing established skill levels. Their bodies are actively growing and changing, exposing them to unique injuries not seen in adults. This is why specialized tests and screens are necessary to measure risk and baseline these athletes.
Avoiding a sports injury starts with high tech knowledge.
In recent years, sports technologies have emerged that use specialized hardware’s like 3D cameras, ground force pressure plates, and wearable sensors that objectively collect data for the purpose of screening and testing young athletes.
The more we know about how an athlete moves directly translates to a better chance of avoiding a major injury down the road. Currently, most athletic competitive sports trainers and coaches rely on subjectivity and a coach’s opinion on how best to perform and what to train for improvement. The same goes for medical practitioners, assessing an athlete’s readiness to return to normal activity. The athlete will perform some movements and the trainer makes a decision that is heavily based on the opinion and experience of that trainer.
This is where sports technology can help. There is a growing list of sports technologies that provide objective biomechanical analysis with insight necessary to drive targeted training and help trainers or coaches make more accurate decisions regarding an athlete’s ability to perform on the field without loss of performance or risk of injury or reinjury.
Companies like RAPID-Sports utilizes multiple types of digital hardwares to collect age specific data on young athletes to augment the coach’s decision-making process and ensure proper programming is chosen as well as to help coaches understand the physical limits of their athletes. RAPID-Sports testing ranges from functional movement screens to concussion protocols.
RAPID-Sports recently developed a computer-based sports performance and injury prevention program for the Louisville Slugger Hitting Science Center (Louisville, KY; sluggerscience.com). This program is an in-depth program that has been specifically created for baseball and softball players, which gathers data to help an athlete improve performance and manage or prevent injuries. A key component of the program uses information such as biometrics and other workload metrics to single out players who are more at risk of injury than others. A portable ground pressure mat is used to capture the abilities of the players, then generates results in real time. This data is run and analyzed so players and coaches can make decisions on performance and changes to prevent injuries before they happen.
Kinetisense (Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada; kinetisense.com) is a technology that uses 3D cameras to help screen players for potential injuries. Their unique testing formats are designed to be age specific. Another technology is Catapult One (Melbourne, Australia; catapultsports.com), which is a state of the art soccer and football performance solution, using elite level GPS tracking to measure sprint distance, total distance, top speed, and more while also identifying overtraining that causes injury.
Utilizing sports technology ensures kids are practicing their chosen sport safely and with that a healthy commitment to competition is achieved. From reducing the risk of injuries, to concussion baseline and reassessment, the data captured by these technologies is essential to keeping young athletes healthy now and in the future. With affordability, efficiency, and portability, technologies like RAPID-Sports, Kinetisense, and Catapult One can help enhance the coach’s or trainers’ decision-making process. Professionals in athletics, fitness, therapy, research, and beyond can all leverage these types of technologies to redefine the future of these youth athletes and the future of youth sports as a whole.
Philip Stotter, CEP, is a veteran clinical exercise physiologist and biomechanics expert turned technology inventor/business developer. He is the Director of Sports Science for V1 Sports, a software development firm specializing in integrated video capture and analysis, ground pressure measurement, game tracking and stat tools to help coaches and athletes improve their game.