It seems as though more and more kids/teenagers are playing the same sport year round and/or emphasizing their sport skill development year round.  Yet, by all measures, youth sports injuries continue to rise and the large majority of kids that don’t end up with a D1 scholarship is still very high.  So what gives? Could it be that strength training gets pushed to the back burner at the expense of more AAU/Travel ball exposure or specific skill development work?

Just how important is well designed strength training program in terms of  injury prevention and/or sports performance?

For starters, Lauersen et. al published a review article in 2014 showing strength training helped reduce sports injuries by 1/3.  Interestingly, a popular narrative that stretching reduce injury risk, was basically proven non-existent.  The authors found little to no supporting evidence that stretching was helpful in reducing injuries.

Strength training and injury review article

One of the contributors to ACL tears and other knee injuries in non-contact situations is altered landing/change of direction mechanics that increase ground reaction forces beyond what the athlete is able to tolerate.  A 2010 study by Herman et al.  found that  strength training improved athlete’s ability to enhance hip and knee biomechanics in jump landing beyond what normal feedback/video feedback was able to improve. strength training, landing mechanics

Tim Gabbett has also recently shown that creating higher chronic workload (meaning building training volume and load gradually to a point that’s close to or equal the workload experienced in games) helps protect athletes against injury risk as compared to rapid spikes in workload/forces vs training load. The following is a direct quote from this research article: training workload

“Second, across a wide range of sports, well-developed physical qualities are associated with a reduced risk of injury. Clearly, for athletes to develop the physical capacities required to provide a protective effect against injury, they must be prepared to train hard. Finally, there is also evidence that under-training may increase injury risk. Collectively, these results emphasise that reductions in workloads may not always be the best approach to protect against injury.  ” (Gabbett)

Strength training is very much a part of building chronic workload and of developing physical qualities needed for sports.

What about performance?

For starters; Tricoli et al. found weightlifting exercises (an explosive form of strength/power development) improved performance measures to a greater degree than a vertical jump training program alone. weightlifting vs vertical jump training

In a review article exploring optimal training loads for power development among athletes; Kawamori and Haff clearly show the role strength in general and strength training specifically, play in improving power output in athletes. optimal power output load

For a more specific look, check out this article showing how 8 weeks  of strength training significantly improved baseball throwing velocity vs a non-strength training group of college baseball players. strength training and throwing velo

Another study reported similar findings.  Among three groups of junior baseball players: control, upper body medicine ball throws, and upper body strength training: only the upper body strength training group showed an increase in throwing velocity. upper body strength training and throwing velocity

The research is honestly overwhelming in showing the benefits of strength training on performance measures in sports.  Athletes that don’t strength train are clearly at a disadvantage compared to their peers who do strength train on a regular basis.

In order to optimize sports performance and help reduce injury risk; strength training should be an important part of an athlete’s development on a year round basis.