Are we giving our kids the best start in their sporting careers and in their lives as a whole?
If kids are playing sport from an early age, is it even more important that they add an element of strength and conditioning to their programmes?
These are questions I am asking myself on a regular basis.
Recently, I have had the pleasure to work with six young boxers who have made some significant gains in strength and mobility during a programme I set out for them.
This, to me, was another example of how we can really undervalue and underestimate the benefits of strength and conditioning for young people and how it can play an important role in reducing common injuries.
In the words of Adam Meakins, ‘You can’t go wrong, getting (kids) strong’.
Injuries will always happen, especially on the sporting field – but through strength training, we reduce the risk of injury considerably.
Lauersen et al (2013) found that in 26,610 participants across 25 trials, strength training reduced sports injuries by 66% and halved over-use injuries. We cannot ignore evidence like this.
A common problem
One of the most common injuries in sport (especially contact sports) for both adults and kids is an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.
The body’s ability to control movement during dynamic exercise such as running, and jumping is crucial for the reduction of such injuries.
There is a body of evidence that demonstrates the importance of jumping and landing skills in the prevention of ACL injuries in adults and that shows how incorporating such drills into sport can be highly beneficial (Herrington et al 2013).
The ACL is one of the main stability ligaments for the knee, and injuries to it have been linked to a reduced quality of life (QOL). In the USA, there are around 127,000 surgeries to repair this ligament yearly (Filbay et al, 2016).
Movement that promotes the development of our responsive mechanisms (reflexes), programmed from an early age, could be a preventative tool against non-contact ACL injuries.
Developing good relationships with functional movement
Injury prevention strategies are nothing new within physical education. In the past, there have been studies that support the importance of injury awareness and of interventions (including core strength and dynamic stability) which help reduce the causes of common injuries.
In my opinion, ensuring that children develop good relationships by practising functional movement patterns (especially on a single leg) from an early age can only be positive for their future health.
The development of jumping and landing skills has benefits that can’t be ignored. Injury preventative structures along with sport-related conditioning improved performance, mirroring the same effects an adult would gain from strength training (Faigenbaum et al, 2015).
The Bath University injury prevention study
A study conducted by Bath University and supported by the Rugby Football Union found that implanting a movement control exercise programme in school sports reduced sporting injuries significantly (Hislop et al, 2017).
The methods focused mainly on balance and landing drills along with strength and mobility drills. They had various cutting drills and finished with sport-specific exercises.
The programme had a progression element and was conducted for 20 minutes prior to training sessions.
The study found that out of 40 schools, those that adhered to the programme three times per week reduced their injury rate by 72%.
This is a really clear indicator that such simple approaches will massively reduce the likelihood of injury during childhood.
FIFA also have been innovating when managing their injury risks and have been reducing the burden of injuries within football. Their programme includes football players engaging with core strength, lower limb and neuro-muscular control exercises before every training and match session (Bizzini and Dvorak, 2015). Exercises such as the side plank and single leg balance have reduced players’ risk of injury significantly.
With these studies in mind, and to give our young people the best start in life, I think it would be boxing clever if we introduced these sorts of interventions and promoted strength training for all young people – not just those engaged in team sports. Instilling the importance of strength and movement at an early stage could lead to adults with better movement function.
Faigenbaum and McFarland (2016) Resistance Training For Kids: Right From The Start. American College of Sports Medicine, Health and Fitness Journal. Sep/Oct 2016
Faigenbaum et al (2011) Injury Trends and Prevention in Youth Resistance Training. National Strength and Conditioning Journal.Vol 33, No 3, Jun 2011
Lloyd et al (2013) Position Statement on Youth Resistance Training: The 2014 International Consensus. British Journal of Sports Medicine.20 Sep, 2013
Bizzini and Dvorak (2015) FIFA 11+: an effective programme to prevent football injuries in various player groups worldwide—a narrative review. BMJ.[Online] Available from: http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/bjsports/49/9/577.full.pdf
Hislop et al (2017) Reducing musculoskeletal injury and concussion risk in schoolboy rugby players with a pre-activity movement control exercise programme: a cluster randomised controlled trial. BMJ.[Online] Available from:
Herrington et al (2013) Task based rehabilitation protocol for elite athletes following Anterior Cruciate ligament reconstruction: a clinical commentary. Physical Therapy in Sport.[Online] Available from: http://www.cor-kinetic.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Herrington-ACL.pdf
Herrington and Comfort (2013) Training for Prevention of ACL Injury: Incorporation of Progressive Landing Skill Challenges into a Program. National Strength and Conditioning Journal.Vol 35, No 6, Dec 2013
Filbay et al (2016) Quality of Life in Anterior Cruciate Ligament-Deficient Individuals: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. BMJ.[Online] Available from: http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/bjsports/49/16/1033.full.pdf
Faigenbaum et al (2015) Citius, Altius Fortius: Beneficial Effects of Resistance Training for Young Athletes. British Journal of Sports Medicine.First published online 18 June 2015. Doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2015-094621