Sporting Adolescents

Offered By Walnut Grove Clinic

Linda Isaacs is a Chartered Physiotherapist working at Walnut Grove Clinic treating a wide range of problems, injuries and pains. She treats all ages, but a particular special interest area is sporting adolescents. Linda works with the Team GB gymnasts locally at The Academy and has been their club physio for almost four years now supporting the senior and junior GB gymnasts.

It is a specialist area not just because they are elite athletes. Teenagers are not simply mini adults, as they are still growing and their skeleton has not fully formed. It is extremely important to understand these differences, and be aware that they have different responses to loads through their body, and different relative areas of weakness compared to an adult. This will ensure the correct understanding of their problems and allow for the correct diagnosis, and therefore the correct management and treatment.

Children have two major growth spurts, one usually between ages 6-9, and a second one at age 10-14. These age ranges are a guide and increased training volumes, poor diet or medical problems can alter these. Injuries and pains often occur during these periods of growth. Some of these have medical names that can often seem quite scary. But with the right information, they can be managed well.

Osgood Schlatter's presents with pain below the knee on the top of the shin bone. The quadriceps thigh muscle attaches via the patella tendon onto this point. This causes an area of inflammation, commonly with some local swelling and pain to touch. Management involves lots of advice on managing the pain, home exercises to improve muscle strength, stability and flexibility, advice on how best to offload and rest when needed, and reassurance that it usually improves once they stop growing.

Another example is that a teenager is unlikely to have Achilles tendonopathy, when experiencing heel pain. Their tendons are of good quality and very robust, and rarely will the tendon be the point of weakness. It is more likely to be Sever's disease where the Achilles tendon inserts into the heel bone. This bone isn't fully formed and still growing, thus causing inflammation where it attaches. This is something that can be managed with the correct advice, and eventually subsides and resolves.

Linda has a vast amount of experience dealing with such growth related pains and problems, and is able to offer the right advice, give appropriate exercises, and advise on how to avoid further injury that could prevent them doing their sport. Commonly only a short course of physio is required, with just 1-2 sessions to give all the right information, and this is tailored according to the patient.

A large part of managing sporting adolescents is teaching and educating them on how to manage things themselves. This can be through advice, how to appropriately offload an injured area while still training the rest of their body, and keeping them doing their sport where possible. Exercises for mobility and strength, use of a foam roller (a firm favourite with the gymnasts and Linda), spikey ball and stretches are all part of the rehabilitation. As they grow and have 'growth spurts' it is important that they keep their body strong and flexible, to cope with their changing body, controlling longer levers with legs and arms and their increase in height. It is common during and after a growth spurt their muscles haven't adapted and strengthened accordingly, and a small amount of input with a prescribed exercise programme can make a huge difference.


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