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Improving Athletic Performance in High School

Improving Athletic Performance in High School

By Tim Koba


Athletes are beginning to specialize in their sports at a very early age these days. As a result, athletic trainers and sports medicine specialists working with high school students are seeing an increase in the same types of injuries within each particular sport. By way of example, we are seeing more swimmers suffering from shoulder pain and rotator cuff injuries, more cross-country runners with knee pain from patella femoral problems, and more soccer players with ankle sprains and ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries.


The increase in injuries among high school athletes is occurring for related reasons. First and foremost is that by specializing in one sport these young athletes are training their bodies to move only in certain ways that mimic their sport. This trend toward specialization, and away from cross training in two or three different sports, fails to provide well-rounded strength and varied movement stimulus, and these deficits increase risk for injury. Additionally, while it is true that specialization improves an athlete’s performance in his or her sport, it may lead to overuse injuries.


Preventing injuries through proper conditioning


High school athletes can benefit from starting a strength-and-conditioning program. By improving specific movements, increasing strength and endurance, and incorporating speed and agility exercises, athletes will improve performance in their sport.


Keep in mind that the number one goal for any strength and conditioning program is to keep athletes from getting injured because injuries prevent them from playing their sport and improving their skills. By spending time on injury prevention and strengthening weak areas, athletes can stay healthy. To help a swimmer avoid rotator cuff injuries, for example, an athletic trainer will help that athlete strengthen the muscles in his or her back to compensate for the constant forward motion of swimming. Athletic trainers and conditioning specialists understand the different demands of each sport and can help athletes address their specific needs.


Improving your game


You can only improve your game if you are healthy in the first place, which starts with injury prevention, proper diet, practice, and rest. For athletes to improve their sports performance they must lay the foundation for power, speed, and agility prior to the beginning of their season by following a comprehensive strength and conditioning program. There are a number of ways to approach this including weight room exercise, on-field conditioning, and specific exercises to strengthen weak links, such as balancing exercises for ankles and proper squatting techniques to develop hip and knee strength and reinforce correct movement mechanics.


The person you work with may be your sport coach, a personal trainer, or your school athletic trainer. It is important that this person be qualified and certified in exercise science and conditioning; otherwise you run the risk of injuring yourself by using improper form, improper weight recommendations, or by overtraining. By monitoring your exercise an athletic trainer or conditioning specialist can make sure you are exercising safely and effectively and can help you reach your fullest potential.


The athletic trainers at Cayuga Medical Center currently work with nine area high schools to help prevent athletic injuries and to assess and treat injuries when they occur. We will soon be expanding our athletic performance services to make them available to athletes of all ages at the Physical Therapy and Athletic Performance Center on the Convenient Care Campus off Warren Road. Check for more information.


Tim Koba is a certified athletic trainer and strength coach in Cayuga Medical Center’s Department of Sports Medicine and Athletic Performance. He can be reached at or (607) 252-3580.

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