I recently provided sideline medical coverage for the Mercer Island Summer Celebration Basketball tournament. It was a great event and I was really impressed with the level of play. The U7 and U10 teams displayed an impressive level of sophistication, running designed plays and managing the clock in a way that I would never expect from elementary school children. These girls and boys play a lot of basketball and it shows. Unfortunately I was also struck by the incongruity of their basic athleticism. I spent most of my day patching up grazed knees, elbows and palms caused by players tripping over each other or themselves.
I’m not alone in noticing this trend. The sports medicine literature is full of articles and opinion papers warning of the dangers of early sport specialization and diminishing athleticism. The discussion of how and why we should change this trend is one that I’ll leave for another day. For now let’s talk about some of the real world implications of an insufficient athletic base and some strategies for helping to rebuild what is missing.
I regularly see adult basketball players suffering from chronic ankle sprains and resultant instability. Although we are generally able to keep these athletes on the court it is an uphill battle that is never completely won. How often have you heard someone lament their “bad knees” or “bad ankles” which force them to wear a brace, pop prophylactic NSAIDS or limit their playing time? In many instances the reason for these “bad knees” or “bad ankles” are repetitive injury cycles caused by bad mechanics and a poor athletic base. The best way to identify and correct deficits in your athletic base is to work one on one with a healthcare provider or performance specialist skilled in qualitative movement assessment and corrective exercise. If that is not an option there are injury prevention programs that have been shown to improve balance, and functional performance while reducing injury rates. The FIFA 11+ and Sports Metrics programs for two of the best.