Today, Excy co-founder and CEO Michele Mehl sat down with Julie Vanni from Biojunction Sport Therapy. During the interview the two discuss how strength and conditioning principles of sports physical therapy apply throughout life. Today’s interview continues our HealthYeah Mother’s Day theme. For this interview, we focus on youth sports, encouraging the weekend warrior mom to take care of herself, and tips for the active aging woman. It’s almost time for June and to shift to our Father’s Day themes.

Sports Therapy in Young and Aging Athletes is Critical for Performance and Health

During the interview, we discuss the applications of sports therapy for young athletes. This incuded discussing prehab techniques to prevent injury, but also treat them once they take place. Weekend warrior moms never plan to get injured, but it happens. So, we dive into the importance of understanding biomechanics, prehab, rehab, and post rehab. Then, there’s the active aging woman with changing hormones and new challenges with aches and pains. For this group, Julie provides sports therapy tips to focus on things like balance, maintaining muscle, and fall prevention.

Watch the video with to learn more! We have also included a summary of the interview below.

Background on Biojunction Sports Therapy and Julie Vanni

Biojunction is an outpatient sports therapy clinic owned and run by physical therapists. They have offices in West Seattle and the Seattle Wallingford neighborhood. Julie is the manager of the Wallingford PT clinic and sees a wide range of patients. Her physical therapy interests and skills include manual therapy, gait analysis, custom orthotics, bike fitting, and sports and orthopedic injuries for all ages. Julie has always been active, including playing college basketball (All American) and track. She then went on to officiate Division I collegiate basketball after graduation. She believes in staying active and is training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro next March.

Injury Prevention for the Young Athletes

During the interview, Julie gave moms (good information for dads too obviously) some tips to consider about their kids participating in sports. Having fun, making friends and getting exercise are just a few of the positive reasons to participate in sports. But, there can also be challenges, especially as youth push into higher skill set sports. For example, the rate of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears among children and teens has been increasing about 2.3 percent per year for the past two decades.

Girls and women are at higher risk of ACL injuries than men, which Julie believes is important for girl athletes and parents to know. This may be because of body mechanics – girls tend to have wider hips and narrower knees, creating more stress on the tissue. Generally, women also spend less time building muscle mass, which can lead to injury. Women also tend to cut and land from jumping in a way that causes knees to fall in, putting stress on the ligaments. There are ACL prevention programs looking at the most recent research and helping train girls to correctly strength train and cut to less the risk for ACL injuries.

What Other Approaches to Sports Therapy Can Help Prevent Injury?

If your child is starting a new sport, or if you are choosing to ramp up an exercise, Julie highlighted that it can be helpful to make a preventative physical therapy appointment. A sports physical therapist will be able to watch athletic movements and ensure proper mechanics are being used. This can be an important prehab technique to reduce the risk of injury from improper form later. For example, at Biojunction, Julie evaluates an athlete’s biomechanics to determine proactive techniques to help prevent injury.

It is also important to instill the importance of stretching and trunk stability in youth athletes. In the interview, Julie stresses that yes, while it can seem boring and tiresome, stretching from a young age into adulthood is crucial for injury prevention. She also encouraged parents to have their kids focus on sitting up straight and engaging in good posture. Even when we are tired or at school, good posture techniques can help build endurance and strengthen core muscles.

Nutrition and Sleep Part of Comprehensive Sports Therapy Program

Along with exercise, Julie highlighted research the importance of proper nutrition and sleep to help prevent injuries in young athletes. Nutrition gives kids the energy needed to participate in their chosen activities. A 2014 study showed the likelihood of injury in comparison to how many hours of sleep subjects got on average. Subjects who got less than eights hours of sleep a night had a 1.7 times higher likelihood of getting injured than those who got eight plus hours. If you are a parent watching out for your kid’s health, make sure they are not over-extending themselves between sports, school, family, and social activities.

The Importance of Being Strong as We Age

Julie gets into how there are are so many ways for seniors to build strength and exercise more to age better. Strength training, power training, and resistance training all make a difference in overall health as we age. Being strong leads to better balance and faster body movements, which can reduce fall risks. As we age, we tend to lose the balance and strength it takes to control our bodies. On top of that, our bodies are weaker, and small falls have much higher consequences. Working with a PT on balance can help prevent falls and their resulting injuries. Julie recommends practicing balance in a hallway or doorway, or behind a stable counter, so that there are supports in place if you fall. At Excy, we work hard to provide seniors a convenient way to build strength with a unique approach to resistance training for legs and arms.

Excy’s Sports Therapy Takeaways

When it comes down to it, the things we ask our kids to do to stay strong are equally important as we age. Whether engaged in physical activity for health or for sports, proper technique is important to prevent injury. These are key takeaways from talking to Julie:

  1. If you – or your child – is starting a new sport, or ramping up activity on an old one, schedule a preventative physical therapy appointment. A PT will be able to monitor your body’s mechanics and make sure you are using proper form to prevent injury.
  2. Invest in proper shoes with the correct arch support or custom orthotics. This is another area a physical therapist can help you with. A foot that is happy will make a lot of other things happy as well!
  3. Invest in your health through nutrition, exercise, and sleep. All three are important not only to be happy and healthy in the short-term, but to prevent injury in the long-term as well.
  4. You do not need to be in pain to be physically active. If you are experiencing aches that take too long to disappear, or old symptoms are lasting longer than before, see a physical therapist to determine the cause and a proper path for action.

Follow our HealthYeah series for more interviews!

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