There are two phrases I hear all too often in my sports massage practice. The first being, “I hurt this when I was younger and never took care of it.” This means that when they were a child or teenager, they either hurt themselves or had various compensations due to repetitive movements that were never addressed.
The second phrase I hear all too often is, “They’re young, they don’t need to rehab, and they’ll get better on their own.”
Let’s take for example a young soccer player who sprains his ankle at the age of 10. When this soccer player sprains their ankle, the regular protocol of ice, a few days rest and compression are done, but there is no further investigation or rehabilitation.
Depending on the severity of the ankle sprain, which could mean a slight pulling of a ligament to the tearing of one or more ligaments. Even just a slight pull to the ligament could permanently change the ligament making the ankle weaker; which is why some people have chronic ankle sprains. In this case, the actual integrity of the ankle will decrease with each sprain, forcing the rest of the leg to pick up slack for the damaged ligaments. Also, when someone sustains an injury, they will limp, walk differently and adapt the way they move in order to feel less pain. These compensations are not necessarily good for the body; if not dealt with, will remain for a lifetime, making the body more susceptible to future injuries.
The compensations are not necessarily only around the ankle area, but also elsewhere in the body. For example, when an injury occurs, the person will automatically avoid putting pressure on that limb and will adjust by putting pressure on the other side of the body, creating an imbalance. The hips will shift, and possibly rotate, which will, in turn, affect the alignment of the spine.
As difficult as it can be to imagine, a small ankle sprain at the age of 10, could cause future injuries and muscle imbalances later on in life.
Children sit in a classroom most of the day, very often sitting improperly or in uncomfortable chairs, which will affect their body and alignment. Then they go home and very often they play video games, watch television and do homework, meaning that they are still in a sitting or lying down position, again putting strain on their bodies.
Just like a seated posture is one of the worst postures for adults, it is the same thing for children. Sitting down all day for school, homework and video games will create muscle imbalances and various muscle weaknesses which will put them at a higher risk of injury both when they are young and when they will be adults.
The evaluation and treatment plan for a child will be similar to that for an adult. In the sports massage treatment, we will evaluate the posture, listen to the mechanism of injury and watch how the child moves in order to understand the adjustments and compensations in the body.
Most often in a sports massage treatment for kids, the child is asked to wear shorts and possibly a tank top or sports bra so that they can receive the massage and do exercises within the same sports massage treatment.
The goal of the sports massage treatment will be to rehabilitate the injury, but at the same time, find any compensations and imbalances; and then strengthen the body to avoid future problems.
Remember, it is better to prevent compensations and future injuries than it is to rehabilitate chronic injuries. A child has the same body structure as an adult, and can be injured just like an adult can be injured. Regular sports massage treatments will help to rehabilitate and prevent injuries in children.