Sports Safety: Offseason Conditioning to Prevent Injuries in Young Athletes

Each year, 3.4 million children aged 14 years or younger are treated for sports-related injuries in the United States (according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons). Many of these injuries are sprains and strains that take place at the beginning of each sports season because the young athletes participating in these sports didn’t maintain their fitness levels during the offseason.

The Offseason is a Time to Get Healthy and Get Rest:

While maintaining conditioning levels during the offseason is important, the primary goal of any offseason should be to give your body and your mind time to rest after a long season. Oftentimes, athletes will have lingering injuries during the season that might not be severe enough to prevent them from playing. This type of injury should be given the time and treatment needed to finally heal.

Components of a Successful Offseason Program:

The jump that many young athletes make from a mostly inactive lifestyle into a hectic sports season results in many of the injuries seen early in the season. The human body is not designed to transition this drastically. The most important aspect of planning an offseason training regimen is to establish proper pacing. A program should start slow, allowing for rest with small week-to-week increases in the level of intensity leading up to the start of the season.

Every off-season program will be different depending on the athlete and the sport they are being prepared for but there are general areas that all programs should address. These areas include core strength, cardiovascular fitness, and strength training, along with more sport-specific skill development.

The offseason is a great time to development weaknesses that arose during the previous season. NBA legend Michael Jordan famously would work to fix one flaw in his game during each offseason, turning them one-by-one into strengths.

By following this basic model and customizing it to fit the needs of each athlete, the high level of injuries at the beginning of each youth sports season can be greatly reduced.


Reference: In Motion (A Publication of the AOSSM); Lance LeClare, MD; “Safe Off-Season Conditioning Creates Future Wins”; Winter 2012;