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New IOC Consensus Statement on Youth Athletic Development

By Tim Koba, ATC

The British Journal of Sports Medicine released an International Olympic Committee position statement on youth athletic development http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/49/13/843.full.

This comprehensive statement has recommendations for youth sports and practitioners and can help serve as a foundation for those involved with youth sports.

While prepubescent males and females show similarities in movement, strength and fitness, there are vast differences post puberty.  The implementation of a neuromuscular and strength training program is vital to improve balance, proprioception and strength as athletes go through puberty.  The committee acknowledges the importance of incorporating strength and conditioning into the development of youth athletes.

The lack of awareness and understanding of adequate nutrition by athletes and coaches is a concern in youth development.  Educational material should be developed and disseminated to those who work with young athletes to educate them on proper diet and necessary nutrients.  Coaches are also encouraged to adopt a 4C approach to coaching consisting of competence, confidence, connection and character.  This should serve as the framework for coaches to develop relationships with their athletes and to adopt and implement long-term, realistic outcomes.  Coaches following this approach can decrease the chance of psychological overload, or burnout, by making sure they keep the long-term physical and mental health and well-being of the athlete in mind.

As discussed in previous blog posts, there is a concern for overuse injury in single sport. Specialization should be taken in to consideration when working with young athletes.  It is a personal decision to choose to play 1 sport, and efforts should be made to discuss the pros and cons of that decision.  Athletes, parents and coaches should understand playing a single sport is not a guarantee for future success since so few athletes achieve the elite level.  Youth participation in multiple sports allows for the development of new motor patterns and tissue adaptation.  Youth can still participate in their main sport with skill acquisition while playing other sports or completing a strength and conditioning program.

Athletic development is a complex process with intrinsic and extrinsic factors that interact with each other and the athlete.  The goal for the IOC is to “develop healthy, capable and resilient young athletes, while attaining widespread, inclusive, sustainable and enjoyable participation and success for all levels of individual athletic achievement.” As Athletic Trainers, we are in the perfect position to assist young athletes in making good decisions regarding participation by practicing evidence based medicine.  We can evaluate and develop educational materials for athletes, coaches, parents and administrators. Athletic Trainers can also discuss the benefits of strength and neuromuscular training programs and how to appropriately overload and recover for success.  Our understanding of youth sports helps to ensure they are able to engage in safe, long term participation in the sport they love.

Resource

International Olympic Committee consensus statement on youth athletic development http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/49/13/843.full