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  • Writer's pictureMel


How to optimise performance, minimise injury and maintain health and well-being

The human body can be pushed to exciting limits- it’s amazing to see what athletes can achieve on the sporting field. There is often a fine line between healthy athletic training and overtraining, placing the athlete at risk of sub-optimal performance, overuse injuries and recurrent illnesses. This can occur at all levels of sport participation, not just at the top level. Teenagers are particularly vulnerable due to their extra nutritional needs required for growth and development.

Understanding the balance between fuel and physical activity is important. A mismatch here, often described as Low Energy Availability (LEA) can lead to a syndrome called Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-s). This places the exercising person at risk for many different symptoms, such as gastric upset, poor sleep and concentration, change in mood and poor sport performance. They may have recurrent illnesses, injuries, low iron stores and in females, may have irregular periods or the menstrual period may stop altogether.

The amount and type of physical activity a person performs is also important:

· Doing “too much, too soon” will overload the body, or part of the body, increasing the risk injury. We look at workload: how much an athlete is performing in a week (acute workload) and relate that to what they have been doing over the last month (chronic workload). This helps safely plan training sessions and games, so that there is less risk of new injury.

· Performing too much of the same skill will overload structures, placing it at risk for injury, for example: baseball pitchers at risk of overuse elbow injuries. Here in New Zealand, it is common for a teenage athlete to play and train a chosen sport for their school, club and region. If they spend their week training and playing with all of these teams, leaving little time for recovery or other movement patterns, they are at increased risk of injury.

Why is this important? Where once it was thought that lean and low body fat equalled better sport performance, we now know that attempting to achieve leanness leads to the body not functioning well. A body that doesn’t function well can’t perform its best when exercising, so sport performance drops. A body that doesn’t function well is more prone to illness and injury, which removes athletes from training while they recover. This also adds to reduced sporting performance and adversely affect the athletes mental health.

The team at Hawke’s Bay Sports Medicine are passionate about healthy exercise habits. We want to train well, feel great, perform well and ultimately have your body work for you, not against you. We have identified the teenage sporting persons in our community as most vulnerable for the development of RED-s; with the increased nutritional needs during growth and development and the increased sporting commitment. We are keen to help.

In 2023 we are offering a Seminar Series targeting coaches, athletes and parents, to help keep our teenage athletes perform at their best, and reduce the risk of injury and illness. Topics to be addressed include:

  • Healthy bodies for performance -RED-s

  • Teenage female sport participation

  • Overuse injuries and managing workload

  • ACL injury and knee injury prevention

  • Special guests from allied health

Please register your interest on our website. Keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram.


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