Reports of sports-related concussions continue to grow, with as many as 3.8 million occurring in athletes of all ages across the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So what can be done to help prevent them, particularly in young athletes whose brains are still developing? The Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention at Children’s Hospital in Waltham hopes a comprehensive new exercise program is the answer.
As part of the Concussion Prevention Program, which is held on Saturday mornings, kids and teens are put through a specially designed workout that conditions them to withstand significant blows to both the head and the body.
To kick off the hour-long session, a certified fitness trainer ran the group through various sets of exercises to warm-up their bodies and get the blood flowing. A series of dynamic stretches was followed by footwork and agility drills.
Next came the main component of the program — strengthening the neck and core. Using tools like stability balls, weight machines, and bands, the participants performed exercises that targeted small muscle groups that are oft-ignored — leading to weaknesses that the Micheli Center believes make them vulnerable to sustaining a concussion. The instructor also had them perform a number of balance exercises, as well as spatial awareness drills that should help theses athletes avoid collisions by helping them become more aware of what’s going on on the playing field.
Many of the participants who took part in this particular session had each suffered numerous concussions over the past few years, while playing sports and during recess at school. Each said that their doctor had recommended they attend the classes, and all agreed their bodies felt stronger as a result. The sessions, which cost $25 each, are open to any young athlete and while the Micheli Center recognizes that there is no sure-fire way to prevent concussions, they believe this program is a step in the right direction.
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