By Joe Coyne (C.S.C.S)
We’ve all heard it before… young athletes shouldn’t lift weights, resistance training stunts your growth, weight training is too risky… However, the fact of the matter is playing a sport (even at the youth level) is far more dangerous than a youth athlete weightlifting! Yes, you heard that correctly! The rate of injuries sustained in youth weightlifting is LESS than just about EVERY sport! To put things into perspective, the force an athlete would sustain on their body during a max effort lift (a one rep max) is actually LESS than what they are exposed to on a daily basis in regular sports (including backyard recreational sports with friends). Also, overuse injuries in sports occur way more consistently.. It turns out, weightlifting actually helps reduce injury occurrence in other sports and helps athletes recover faster from injuries.
Youth athletes still have open growth plates; their bones are still growing and vulnerable. At this point in their life their bones are much weaker than their tendons and ligaments (which is why there are more bone breaks in kids and more tendon and ligament tears in adults) However, injuries to the bones of youth athletes happen from the same forces that cause tendon/ligament issues in adults. These injuries only happen on the field, lifting with poor form, and freak accidents. There has NEVER been a scientific study showing that youth strength training stunts normal growth and the development process. IN FACT, youth athletes who lift weights on average have higher bone densities than athletes who do not lift weights. This will help athletes lower their chances of injury on the field!
The most common lifting injuries are from pinched fingers and dropping the weights from poor positions. This comes down to coaches keeping a safe gym environment.
As long as the coach:
1) Monitors the training program
2) Modifies the intensity of the training accordingly.
3) Supervises the room
4) Preaches and teaches good form
The athletes will be set up for success and health on the field!