I love sports. I always have. As I got farther into my athletic career and then into my professional career, I began to develop a passion for sports from the rehabilitation side of things. The culture of sports is ever-changing: today we are seeing a shift towards greater sports specialization and increased overuse injuries associated with young athletes playing only one sport almost all year. This can create problems because the body at a younger age is not yet ready for the repetitive stress that goes along with playing only one sport at a high volume without adequate rest.
As a physical therapist, I am always asking myself the question “What can I do to help?” I am always trying to educate parents and athletes about child development as it relates to sports and injuries. However, I recently found an opportunity to perform research with a clinical professor at NIU. We are looking at physical profiles of adolescent female volleyball players. This includes measuring specific shoulder, hip, and lateral trunk strength, ankle range of motion, hop testing, and jump landing techniques in order to potentially identify normative values for this population. This data would allow us to better screen an athlete that may be at risk for injuries by comparing scores on these tests to “normal” values for their age. The problem right now is that there is limited formal research for the population of youth female volleyball players. This limited available research means we still have a lot of work to do! However, it is exciting to have the opportunity to expand the research and knowledge of clinicians to better help young athletes. While injuries will happen in sports, there are ways to identify impairments and help prevent other injuries to help a young child–especially those playing competitively and at a high volume–to be able to continue to stay active in their sport by reducing time off due to injury.