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The New York Post
TOMMY John, a chiropractor who goes by "Dr. Tommy," knows a thing or two about injuries. The former college pitcher saw his own career cut short by a compromised shoulder.
And in 1974, his father, former Yankee hurler Tommy John Jr., underwent a groundbreaking, now-namesake elbow surgery that has greatly impacted the game of baseball. The surgery — which uses a tendon to replace a blown elbow ligament — has allowed many pitchers to extend their careers after enduring wear and tear.
But it was John's work as a performance coach that opened his eyes to the epidemic that was ruining youth sports.
"We're seeing degenerative injuries in younger and younger athletes," John tells The Post. "Everybody gets injured, but the types [of injuries] we're seeing now are completely preventable." And the intensity that leads to injury might not be worth it in the long run: According to John's book, only 2.1 percent of high school baseball players go on to play Division 1 ball.
In his new book "Minimize Injury, Maximize Performance: A Sports Parent's Survival Guide" (Da Capo Press), the San Diego-based chiropractor hopes to help parents teach their young athletes how to stay in the game by focusing on their health. Here' s some of his best advice.
1. Don't zero in on just one sport too soon
"The single biggest factor for youth injuries is early specialization," says John. Instead of rotating between three sports throughout the year, athletes are now only focusing on one. Doing that before your body is fully developed is wreaking havoc.
"It's doing repetitive motions when the body isn't able to handle that yet," he says. "It dumbs the body down and makes it prone to overuse injuries." He recommends that athletes hold off on focusing on one sport until mid- to late-high school.
2. Make an off-season plan
Many athletes feel pressure to join any and all competitive teams because they fear they won't be taken as seriously by coaches if they don't — and that they'll be left behind by their peers who are playing year-round.
Young athletes should let coaches know they're serious about getting better, but also about being more wellrounded, John says.
Work with your child to come up with other ways to contribute to their knowledge of a sport without simply playing it. Encourage reading about the sport, and plan family visits to sports-centric museums or stadiums.
And just because they're off-season doesn't mean they can laze about: Ditch video games and have them stay active by doing chores or playing other sports.
3. Clean up their diets
John encourages kids to eat organic fruits and veggies, and healthy fats, such as grass-fed butter and coconut oil. Limit soda and processed foods.
"Stick with foods that rot," says John.
Also, avoid sports drinks, even though they're ubiquitous on the sidelines of kids' games.
"They're loaded with stuff you don't need. Nature's water bottle is an apple or a piece of fruit," he says. If your kid needs to replenish electrolytes, John suggests adding a pinch of Himalayan salt to a glass of water.
4. Focus on breath
Kids today "are so ramped up and anxious," says John, that "they're constantly in fight-or-flight [mode], which lowers the immune system." Certain breathing techniques can boost the parasympathetic nervous system, which aids recovery, says John, who suggests kids try the "4-1-8-1" method:
Breathe in through the nose for four seconds, hold for one second and then breathe out for eight seconds.
Take a break for one second, and start the pattern up again. He advises practicing this for a couple of minutes both pre- and post-game and before bed.
"There's no way to overdo it. The more the better," says John adding, "We highly recommend the parents do this as well."
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