How to Help Prevent Injuries In Youth Athletes

June 7, 2024

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Injury Resistance in Youth Athletes: Enhancing Your Child’s Availability


Written By: Professor John Cronin, AUT University, NZ.  ATH’s Chief Science Officer, Texas, USA.


What’s injury resistance? Well, we know that we can’t prevent injury, the best we can do is help your child be more resistant to injury. As strength and conditioning coaches this is one of our biggest responsibilities to the athlete, parent and coach. 


You’ve all heard that the best athletic ability we can give a coach is availability. For many coaches, their biggest priority is that they want their best players on the field and the reserve bench. By doing this you improve the chances of the team winning games and competitions. For some coaches, making athletes stronger, faster, change direction better, jump higher, etc. is an added bonus, but availability is the priority.


But it’s not about the coach, it’s about the child/athlete.


So, what are the hallmarks of a good injury-resistance program?


There are a few ways to look at this but I will summarise some thoughts from colleagues at Cardiff Metropolitan University who have specialised in youth physical development. 

1. Perform A Needs Analysis.

The focus here is understanding your child’s sport and then matching that against the needs of your child. This analysis is anchored in a biomechanical and physiological understanding of the demands of their sport as well as the types, frequency and severity of injuries as well as injury mechanisms. 

2. Monitor Rapid Growth.

As you know there are periods of rapid growth during your child’s maturation, these growth spurts are associated with disrupted neuromuscular control and function (adolescent awkwardness), which could predispose your growing child to injury. Ways you can monitor stages:

    1. Monitor their sitting and standing height monthly. If you see significant monthly changes you need to be aware and account for the growth (i.e. added energy expenditure and tiredness = extra rest needed).

    2. Learn the implications of the growth spurt.

3. Optime Dose-Response. 

There is a sweet spot in terms of frequency, volume and intensity of training. Do too little and your child is underloaded and inadequately prepared for training and competition, the chances of injury increased. Do too much and they are overloaded or over-trained, which also increases the likelihood of injury.

The science of work-load monitoring has advanced a great deal over the years in professional sports, therefore the understanding of the “sweet spot” for athletes and teams is better understood. However, do you think you might be missing a beat here (overtraining) with your child especially if they are in an early specialization sport (e.g. baseball, football, soccer, etc)? Remember rest is a part of that dose-response relationship and where most of the magic happens in terms of repair and growth of tissues.

Pro tip: Be mindful of the typical signs of overtraining – for example, prolonged soreness or a plateau in performance. This is the time when deloading and recovery should become a higher priority in your athlete’s training regime.


4. Select Effective Training Modes.

Some training modes are better than others at preventing injury in youth. You simply can’t go wrong getting your child stronger. Stronger bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles are documented outcomes from resistance training and increased strength has been shown to decrease injuries dramatically.

Balance, flexibility, plyometric, speed, and multiplanar change of direction training, have been proven effective in reducing the risk of lower extremity injuries also.

Remember, however, all these qualities can be developed reasonably quickly and safely, but with cessation of training they regress and offer less of a preventative effect. Take home: you must commit to retaining or developing these qualities.

5. Start Early.

Get your child involved in a variety of activities early in their development. A mix between deliberate play with deliberate preparation is recommended. Such an approach focuses on movement fundamentals and addresses movement deficits that may be causative of injury.


6. Stratify the Risk.
In risk stratification, you first identify the risk, link the risk factor to a relevant assessment, and thereafter, match exercises to target the risk factor. Very important in this process is having experienced coaches who can implement this process and prescribe the appropriate exercises.

Also, having a structured training approach based on not only age, but also your student athlete’s maturation stage is crucial in advancing their conditioning, fitness and skill level while avoiding unnecessary injury.

7. Adherence Focus.

For injury resistance programs to be effective, high levels of compliance and exercise adherence are fundamental. Therefore, strategies that optimize the engagement of athlete, parents and/or coaches need to be a focus, and education of all parties central to this process. 


As mentioned above, some exercise modes are better than others for injury resistance, and no doubt one of the best modes is to get your child resistance training.


There are some myths out there that might slow down your adoption of this type of training for your child. So, let’s see if we can ease some of those concerns.




First, are you worried about your child beginning strength training too early? Don’t as there is lots of evidence on how good it really is for youth.


Strength training for children is not safe! 


Actually, one of the safest forms of high-intensity physical activity your child can do is supervised strength training. Check the injury stats on strength training compared to activities such as football, baseball and soccer – you won’t even see strength training mentioned.


One of the reasons why you should get your child strength training is for their safety. Stronger bones, ligaments and muscles are outcomes of strength training. Being stronger will increase your child’s ability to exercise and play sport safely.




Have you heard that children can’t gain muscle strength?


Wrong! Check out the stats from a review by Pastor et al (2023) that analyzed 22 studies involving 604 prepubertal children (age, 10.02 ± 0.75 years), where “muscle strength was increased in 100% of the cases.” 



Did someone tell you that strength training stunts your child’s growth?  


The myth that kids will stop growing if they lift weights too young is not supported by any scientific evidence or research. In fact, research by Myers et al (2017) outlines the numerous benefits associated with strength training for kids including: 

  1. Increasing strength and bone strength index (BSI); 

  2. Decreasing fracture risk and rates of sports-related injury; and 

  3. Growing self-esteem and interest in fitness.




Are you afraid strength training will interfere with their academic studies?


Guess what? Strength training actually results in kids doing better at school! A review and meta-analysis by Robinson et al. (2023) concluded that participation that resistance trained  improved, “cognition and academic outcomes in school−aged youth.” Parents, do you want your children to have strong minds as well as bodies?


The take home messages are, we can’t prevent injury, but you can certainly make decisions to make your child more resistant to injury. Seven pillars to youth injury prevention programs were discussed. Bringing these pillars to life needs a combined and integrated approach by the coach, parent and/or youth athlete. One of the easiest and proven ways to increase injury resistance is to get your child stronger.  



Fill out this form and we’ll be in touch. Or, read more about our training programs by following the links below:


Student ATHlete: Athletic performance training for athletes ages 8-18

Next Level ATHlete: Seasonal programs for collegiate and professional athletes

Team ATHlete: Specialized, seasonal team-training for teams and organizations



Training Youth Athletes: ATH's Student ATHlete Training Philosophy

Using SMART Goals to Measure Progress

Sport Specific Training Versus Sport Skills Training


Myers et al. (2017).  
Pastor et al. (2023).  
Robinson et al. (2023).

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