American high school athletes have gotten into this “sport specific” training cycle that is tearing them down and increasing their injury rate. Kids are bouncing from one specialized camp to another while still playing their sport of choice year round. With all this “sport specific” training that they think will make them better is actually hurting their performance because they are over-specialized and never actually working on movement fundamentals.
These movement fundamentals include things like being able to touch your toes, being able to squat down until your back side can almost reach your heels, being able to do a proper push up or being able to hop on one leg.
Knee injuries are a common concern amongst athletes, particularly if a ligament such as an ACL is torn. This is a valid concern given that previous research has found that knee injuries account for 60 percent of all sports-related surgeries.¹ Specifically, ACL injuries can account for more than 50 percent of knee injuries.²,³ While they will never be completely eliminated, sports injury surveillance can help coaches develop sport-specific strategies to decrease their athletes' risk for ACL injuries.
According to Gray Cook, MSPT, RKC, CSCS who is trying to steer coaches and parents in the right direction, “This “sports specific” training created throwing athletes without legs and running athletes who could not do a single push-up correctly. It created swimmers who could not control their body on dry land and cyclists who could not stand up straight.”
This is why a solid foundation of general strength and conditioning must be achieved before getting into specialized training camps or even doing your sport coach’s pre-season strength and conditioning programs. Sport coaches, who have the best intentions, tend to unknowingly run athletes into the ground and focus on drill after while trying to get kids ready for the upcoming season. These drills and conditioning programs are of course important, but if the athlete can’t move in all planes of motion and do movement fundamentals to begin with, then they are being set up for failure or even worse, injury.
Things like joint mobility, lateral movement, rotational patterns, general endurance, general strength, coordination, and flexibility are cornerstones to an athlete succeeding but are almost always missing in high school athletes training programs.
There are two general conditions that should be met before getting heavy into sport specific training. First, you should be at a national or all-state level of play. Second, you should already have a high level of general strength and conditioning. At this point, you need to find a highly qualified coach to work with you on improving your sport specific skills.
There are athletes doing Olympic lifting routines using 135 pounds like its nothing. While this is a great measuring stick for muscular endurance, if you try to do this before mastering basic body weight movements like squats, body rows, lunges, push ups and developing a strong core, you will get nothing but injured out of trying it.
Skipping the basic foundation movements in a proper strength and conditioning program and doing only sport specific training is like building your house out of straw. It just won’t stand the test of time. Sport coaches and parents, with the guidance of a Strength and Conditioning Specialist, can really get kids ready to play at a much higher and safer level.
1. Powell JW, Barber-Foss KD. Injury patterns in Selected High School Sports: A Review of the 1995-1997 Seasons.Journal of Athletic Training. 1999;34(3):277-284.
2. Brown University. Prevalence and Incidence of ACL Injuries in Various Sports. Accessed Sept. 21, 2008.
3. Majewski M, Habelt S, Steinbrück K. Epidemiology of Athletic Knee Injuries: A 10-year Study. Knee. 2006(13):184-188.
Author Bio: Todd M. Cambio, BS, BA, CSCS is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA as well as a published author and Body Weight Master Trainer. Coach Cambio owns Precision Fitness in downtown Pawcatuck and trains athletes of all levels from high school to the pros. He can be reached at 860-287-3768 or on the web at www.ToddCambio.com.