By Specialist Sports and Exercise Physiotherapist Loretta O’Sullivan Pippa
Christmas is the season for being jolly, for seeing those we love, and taking some well-deserved time away from our usual commitments and hectic schedules. For teenagers, Christmas is a much-needed respite away from school, exams and often busy sport timetables. It’s a chance to have a break, hang with friends and rest in preparation for the upcoming year. It’s no secret to many parents that adolescents often tend to have a growth spurt over the Christmas break. The magically emptying fridge isn’t the only thing you should be keeping an eye out for over the holiday break. As they grow, the long bones of their arms and legs often grow before the bones of the torso, and only then do the tendons and muscles catch up. When coupled with a reduced sports load over the Christmas break, these two factors combined can decrease capacity, and mean that the tendons grow weaker due to the reduced sports load.
This is why it’s important to not just sit back and do nothing over the holidays, even if your teenager isn’t an elite athlete. Your adolescent should try to maintain their tendon load – it doesn’t need to be strenuous or formal sports training, but can be as simple as running, jumping on the trampoline or enjoying parkour type activities like at Urban Extreme or Bounce. Especially for the younger tweens or teens, social sports activities such as a game of basketball with mates is a perfect way to help maintain tendon strength – small yet frequent is the key. The goal is to ensure that when school and sports return in January, they’ve maintained a level of fitness and are therefore much less likely to experience injuries.
Living in a connected world, adolescents are lucky that a range of online programs are available for them to follow from the comfort of home – for example the Netball Knee Program and Activate Rugby are sport specific warmups to help maintain tendon load and can be done several times a week, at a time that suits them. Best of all, these programs offer excellent guidance and cater to different levels to suit their ability, fitness and age, and can be a fun activity to get the whole family involved! It helps to build neuro-muscular control to help combat and support the growth spurt mentioned earlier, whilst maintaining a strong foundational base of fitness.
Elite athletes may still have some formal training or coaching over the holidays, but the likely-reduced schedule means it’s just as important for them to maintain their tendon load while still allowing themselves to have a break. Allow your adolescent to take some time to relax, whatever level of sport they engage in and of course, to flag any injuries or pain with their physiotherapist as soon as they occur. The earlier we can catch an issue, the better and sometimes all that’s needed is reassurance of how to treat pain, to ensure they return to sport in January fighting fit – and ready to increase their training load.
Most importantly, take the time to reconnect over the Christmas break.
To keep a level of fitness over the break, here’s a few tips to try:
Try sports specific online programs like the Netball Knee Program and Activate Rugby – these warmups help to maintain tendon load and can be done several times a week, at a time that suits the individual. Best of all, these programs offer excellent guidance and different levels to suit their ability, fitness and age and can be a fun activity to get the whole family involved in!
Fun activities which involve parkour, running or jumping are great to maintain tendon strength and condition – little and often is the key, so book that trip to Bounce, or use the trampoline in the garden.
Flag injuries early. Our physiotherapists are more than happy to see clients if an issue is suspected, even if it turns out to be nothing. The longer pain or an injury are left unattended, the longer the absence from sport is likely to be!