Young Athletes Injury Prevention

In my 32 years as a sports therapist, I’ve worked with many athletes, ranging from recreational sport enthusiasts to serious Olympians. Among all the individuals I’ve seen over the span of three decades, most of them have suffered the same common problem: overuse injury. Runners, cyclists, gymnasts, team sport players… for years, the general complaint among all athletes has been muscle strain from overusing a particular muscle.

However, there is one thing that has changed; my clients have been getting younger.

When 12-year-old Andrew walked into my office, I wasn’t surprised. Like many boys his age, he plays baseball year-round on two teams, which means he averages three games and two practices per week. In his case, he is a pitcher and an outfielder, working his right arm extensively. Although, he has never suffered a serious injury, his parents are concerned about the number of injuries they’ve seen among his peers and are hoping to prevent any future flare-ups for their son.


Seeking massage therapy before you’re hurt is the key to keeping those sports injuries at bay. When a person comes in for prevention therapy, we generally set up three sessions, preferably at the beginning, middle and end of the sports season. See “Can Injuries be Prevented through Massage?”

During the first session, I do a thorough check of every muscle from head to toe, to check for any swelling, knots or pain. Through this assessment, we often find areas in the body (trigger points) that are in pre-injury state – areas the athlete was unaware of. I note these on a diagram so we can continue to keep an eye on them. In Andrew’s case, we found tightness in his neck, right chest, lower back, quads and calves. I massaged those muscles extensively to release the tightness and increase his range of motion in those areas.

Once muscle strain occurs, it will present itself in various forms:

  • Muscle tightness and loss of flexibility
  • Soreness
  • Muscle pulls and tears
  • Decreased blood flow through tight muscles
  • Pain

Six weeks later, when Andrew came in for his second appointment, we saw much improvement. The tight muscles I had released through therapy in our first session had maintained their flexibility. Those trigger points were no longer painful or tight when flexed. Andrew was pleasantly surprised at how much easier this session was. He had expected to feel the same tenderness in the previously identified problem areas. His parents were happy as well.

“I’ve seen too many kids injured in sports before they’re even teenagers. I could never make my son play less baseball – he just loves the sport too much – but at least I can help him prevent an overuse injury. Thank you, Ron McKnight, for looking out for young athletes!”

– Angela (Andrew’s mom)

During the third session, we will again evaluate Andrew’s muscles from head to toe, paying special attention to previously identified trigger points. In most cases, three sessions is enough to track progress. The goal is to find any problem areas and treat them before they become an injury.


Unfortunately, many young athletes, coaches, and parents have an inaccurate understanding of how to prevent injuries, simply because they haven’t been exposed to the correct information. As an injury prevention technologist, in addition to treating clients one-on-one, I also offer training to the sports community, corporations, families and fellow massage therapists.

Educating others about more effective ways to keep from getting injured is a passion of mine. I see a great need, especially, for massage therapists and athletic trainers to advance their scope of practice by certifying as injury prevention technologists. Contact me if you want to know more about this.

Ron Mc Knight

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