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The IOC consensus statement on youth athletic development

Even though the benefits of physical activity for young people is unquestioned, implementing widespread sustainable and fun participation and success is still challenging. These challenges present for all stakeholders including coaches, parents, and most importantly the athlete themselves. It is complicated by gender issues, variance in biological maturity, and therefore different responses to training, very injury types and risks, and different psychological needs

.A significant challenge for children is their increasing early specialisation, which was commonly seen in sports such as gymnastics, swimming, diving and figure skating. Is now seen in other sports including football. This is in spite of the research that suggests that youth should avoid early sport specialisation, as diverse athletic exposure enhances motor development and athletic capacity, reduces injury risk and increases the opportunity for a child to discover the sport that he or she will enjoy the most.

Another challenge is the increasing rate of musculoskeletal injury which can occur in children. The increasing early age specialisation and volumes of training required to achieve elite status certainly contribute to this.

Although it is impossible to eliminate all injuries in use sport certain injury prevention strategies can reduce frequency and severity of these. Neuromuscular training and programs focused on intrinsic factor such as strength endurance and proprioception have been shown to reduce injury rates in football and ball basketball between 28 to 80%. These are especially useful in reducing lower extremity knee and ankle injuries.

Some (not all) of the specific recommendations mentioned in the IOC article are:

1.       We should allow for a wider definition of sport success as indicated by healthy meaningful and varied life forming experiences which is centred on the whole athlete and development of the person.

2.       We should commit to the psychological development of resilient and adaptable athletes characterised by mental capability and robustness, high self-regulation and enduring personal excellence qualities.

3.       Encourage children to participate in a variety different unstructured and structured age appropriate sport related activities and settings to develop a wide range of athletic and social skills and attributes that will encourage sustained sports participation and enjoyment.

4.       Across the entire athletic development pathway assist each athlete ineffectively managing sport life balance to be better prepared for light after sport.

5.       Coaching should be aligned with individual athletic readiness

6.       Coaches should seek interdisciplinary support and guidance in managing a youth athlete’s athletic development fitness and health and mental and social challenges and needs.

7.       Strictly adhere to no youth athlete should compete or train or practice in a way that loads the affected injured area interfering with or delaying recovery when in pain or not completely rehabilitated and recovered from illness or injury

8.       dietary education of young athletes should emphasise optimal eating patterns support health normal growth and sport participation to man’s with an emphasis on a balanced intake of nutrient dense carbohydrates high quality protein and sufficient dietary calcium vitamin D and iron

9.       Diversification and variability of athletic exposure between and within sports should be encouraged and promoted

10.   A written emergency plan an effective response protocols should be in place and practice ahead of time with trained personnel as well is readily available facilities on site for managing and treating all forms of exertional heat illness and other medical emergencies for all youth athletic activities especially in the heat

Youth athletes and their support personnel should be educated on the risks associated with dietary supplements and

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