Young Athlete with Neck and Shoulder Pain

Several of my grandchildren are serious athletes, even though they are still young teenagers. Soccer, the sport that my grandson Martin plays, is especially hard on young bodies.

Now, I know I won’t change the entire training program for soccer, although I sure wish I knew someone who had that power! One movement, called “headers” is especially dangerous for young athletes. This is when the ball moves forward because it lands on the athletes head and they jump and twist their head to direct it where they want it to go. Yesterday I worked on a boy who is on my grandson’s team and who spent the previous night crying from pain.

His neck and shoulders were burning and spasming. His mom could feel the big knots under his skin and did her best to try to massage them. I’m sure that she helped the situation, but it was beyond her understanding as to what needed to be done to totally release the spasms. It was a pretty traumatic situation for the mom, and it was a horrible experience for the boy.

A young person’s bones are called “green twig” because, like a new branch on a tree, they bend and can be easily molded — straight or twisted. Their bones are also not nearly as thick as an adults, so they can bend without breaking as easily, which is why a child can bounce around without some of the injuries an adult would sustain during the same accident. However, this is one of the problems with this “header” situation.

When a soccer ball comes flying through the air, with speed and force, and lands on the child’s head, it’s putting a lot of pressure onto the child’s brain! Plus, his/her neck is being pressed down like a spring, and when you add the twisting movement to the mix, you can see the potential problem that occurs.

In this boy’s case, it caused all of the muscles that originate or insert into his neck and skull to go into spasm, pulling his cervical vertebrae in every direction. This put pressure onto his spinal cord, right at the base of his brain. The pain was excruciating!

Fortunately, working specifically on each spasm, holding it while it released and then moving to the next spasm, started to reverse the strain. It took about 1 1/2 hours, and ended up involving every muscle from his skull to the middle of his back, but it worked.

I taught him one thing he could do for himself, and I showed his mom some things she could do to help him if it ever occurred again.

I wish there was some way to prevent this problem from happening, but unless the Header technique was stopped at the younger levels of play, pain is an inevitable possibility.

If you have a young athlete, know that they also need to have their muscles massaged, and that they are also subject to severe repetitive strain injuries. By learning how to treat yourself, you can learn how to help them, and the reward of seeing your child play without pain is well worth the effort!

Wishing you — and your child athlete — well,


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