Strength and conditioning is a key element of technical training for mature athletes, and there has been much debate about whether weights or resistance training in appropriate for the developing younger athlete. The current position on youth resistance training is that a properly deigned and supervised training program is safe and can help strength, prevent injury and enhance motor skills and performance of that athlete.
Over the last 25 years, several studies have shown that pre-adolescent children are capable of safely improving muscle strength with appropriate training regimes with studies demonstrating up to 30% gains in strength as a result of resistance training over an 8-12 week period (Falk & Tenenbaum, 1996). It is known that strength increases two fold between the ages of 7-14, with averages even higher in boys. Therefore some would argue that failure to start appropriate resistance and biomechanical training before 16 may be detrimental to not only the development and success of that athlete, but also longevity. These findings have implication for performance enhancements, but even more importantly for injury prevention of young athletes.
The most common of adolescent injuries such as tendonitis, can be the results of excessive volume of training and competition, lack of stability and strength as well as incorrect or poor biomechanics. The growing athlete is particularly susceptible to such injuries as osgoodshalatters and sever’s when there is a mismatch between flexibility and muscle-tendon strength.
Of greater concern is the potential damage to growth plates of long bones. In these studies where such injuries were recorded, poor technique, excessive loading and repetition of jerky/bouncy activities with a lack of stability and strength we identified as the contributing factors. With the correct implementation and supervision of resistance and biomechanical training, it will encourage healthy bone growth.
In a growing number of cases today it would appear that the musculoskeletal system of young athletes is ill equipped to handle the demands of the practice, games and tournament schedules they are currently undertaking. If we are to keep getting great results as the athlete matures, we need to invest the time and money into long-term development of the adolescent to not only encourage long term success but more importantly to prevent injury.