8 Best Daily Hacks for Youth Athletes

Dr. Lisa Goodman, DC, CCSP, CACCP

As a pediatric sports chiropractor in Denver, I see a lot of kids with sports injuries. In our office we often recommend chiropractic treatments, laser, scraping and taping along with active rest and activity modification to get these kids back to sport. However, when we dig a little deeper, we come across bad habits that kids are doing for hours per day that delay healing. I recently presented at the American Chiropractic Association Sports Council Symposium on Common Pediatric Sports Injuries and this included life hacks for youth athletes. Ps - these are great for adults too

  1. Untuck your bed sheets - foot and achilles pain can be a result of sport (dance, running, etc.) but in my office I OFTEN seen foot and achilles pain is a result of something as simple as tucking in bed sheets! Perhaps the injury started as a result of overuse in sport, but the reason it isn't healing quicker is that when the bed sheets are tucked in tightly, the feet are forced into a toes pointed (achilles shortened) position. Sleeping like this all night long will significantly delay the ability of the calf and achilles to lengthen, stretch and heal.

  2. Stop stomach sleeping - speaking of sleep hacks - stomach sleeping is a major cause of lower back, neck and shoulder pain. Think about it, how do you breathe when you are laying on your stomach? Your neck has to crank a full 90 degrees to the side. While this may be comfortable initially (I have no idea why!), it will lead to long term neck pain and dysfunction. Not only that, but most stomach sleepers also have shoulder pain due to the awkward position (goal posting) of the shoulders all night long. Make the transition to sleeping on back or side as soon as possible. One suggestion if it is really hard to do - wear a fanny pack with tennis balls positioned around the front of your waist to prevent you from rolling onto your stomach. When sleeping on your side, place a pillow between your ankle and knees and hug a pillow between your arms. This keeps your hips, shoulders and back happy and relaxed all night long. When sleeping on your back, place a pillow under your knees and try to keep your arms from resting overhead.

  3. Put the phone down - the hack here is simple, the less your child holds their phone, the less stress their neck and arms will endure. While true that most elbow and wrists injuries are due to repetitive stress of sports like gymnastics, lacrosse or golf, they are made significantly worse by devices. Phones are getting heavier, not lighter. Holding a phone (especially holding and texting with one hand) has the potential to create permanent damage to your upper extremities. Additionally, looking down into your lap at your phone is creating a generation of adolescents with reverse neck curves. But - phones are a reality so what can we do Dr. G? If you are watching a video, set your phone down (at eye level!) Pop sockets help to prop them up on a counter or table. If you have to hold it, try to find support by tucking your elbow into your rib cage and keeping your phone at eye level. My favorite position is seated against a wall or couch, head supported, knees bent and the arm is supported on the knees, phone at eye level. Video here

  4. Change how you tie your shoes! Getting stomped on during soccer practice can leave a painful bruise. But that bruise and other sports injuries can last a lot longer with improper tying of everyday shoes (and cleats). You can now say you were 'today years old' when you learned how to tie your shoes. Start with the laces loose from the toes to the top. Ball up your toes (make a claw) then start cinching your shoes from the toes upward. With your toes balled up, you are creating a little buffer so you can tighten the laces snugly. When you release your toes you should have a little breathing room in the shoe. Often time the mistake is grabbing the laces and pulling them tight just at the top (near the ankle) which puts too much pressure on the top of the foot leading to numbness and potentially cutting off circulation to the foot. Video here

  5. Stop Sitting & Stop Standing - Wait, both? Yep. All day long in my practice students and adults ask if it is better to sit or stand while they are working. The answer is neither and both. So vary it! Sit for writing complicated papers or emails. Stand for a phone call (with ear buds) or while you are watching a video play. Even better, kids can even lay on their stomachs while they are reading a book for short periods of time. This improves lower back and neck extension. When sitting at a desk, be sure to have a chair that ideally supports your neck and back. But guess what? It is also to sit on a couch or a comfy chair for a short period of time too. Keep your body moving and those lower back aches and pains will resolve quicker.

  6. Lose the ottoman or coffee table - At the end of the day it feels so good to put your feet up! But what if putting your feet up on an ottoman or coffee table is causing knee pain? Kids are generally more flexible than adults and their knees really cannot handle the hyperextension caused by putting their butt on a couch and their feet on a coffee table. It makes their knees want to bend backwards, which is painful and an unfavorable position to spend much time in. Instead, pull the ottoman all the way to the couch and put a pillow under the knees for support.

  7. Embrace Ambidexterity - Are you right handed? Or left handed? Why not be both handed!? Think about simple, daily things that kids do everyday with the same arm or hand over and over. Reaching for juice in the refrigerator, opening doors, brushing teeth, drinking from a cup, mousing, using a track pad, texting, loading the dishwasher, etc. Try encouraging the whole family to use both hands. This will decrease the load from constantly affecting the dominant side of the body and might help you access the opposite side of your brain in the process.

  8. "Karate Kid Rehab"! Remember in the Karate Kid when Mr. Miyagi asked Daniel to wax on, wax off? He was developing his strength and muscle patterning for Karate. One of my favorite recommendations for parents when rehabbing a child with a sports injury is to increase the amount of chores they are doing! Try to incorporate squats, lunges and both sides of the body with all of these. The following are my favorite chores for improving strength. Note: these should only be done as long as they are pain free:

  • Weeding - improves grip strength

  • Shoveling - improves lower body, glute, back and arm strength

  • Raking - improves lower body, glute, back and arm strength

  • Washing Windows - using both arms improves arm range of motion and strength

  • Laundry - loading, switching, folding and putting away - improves overall strength

  • Dishes - loading and unloading the dishwasher with a few squats thrown in will improve overall body strength and overhead range of motion

  • Dog walking - increase the cardio but use both arms if possible when walking rover

  • Organizing - closets, pantry and garage can all use help from the kids with carrying, lifting, packing and moving items around. Great for allover strengthening

Life hacks are my MAIN focus in my pediatric sports chiropractic practice. Before prescribing rehab exercises, I dig into the daily life of my patients. If they can stop a behavior that is exacerbating an injury, we are way ahead of the game. If they can modify a chronic posture to provide relief, we have a head start. And if they can add beneficial habits to their daily routine, all of the adjustments, therapies and rehab we perform or prescribe will work better.


Lisa Goodman, DC, CCSP, CACCP founded Washington Park Chiropractic in 2006 in Denver, Colorado. Dr. Goodman is a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician (CCSP) and Certified Prenatal and Pediatric Chiropractor (CACCP). She is a CrossFit L1 and CrossFit Kids Certified Trainer. Dr. Goodman incorporates sports chiropractic techniques with prenatal and pediatric patients, she teaches mobility and taping classes locally, and is a contributor to AnyQuestion, POPSUGAR and Urban Life Wash Park. She is an instructor at Logan University's Masters of Science in Integrative Pediatrics program. She is a member of the ACA Pediatrics Council and the ACA Sports Council. Areas of special interest include prenatal care, ankle and wrist injuries, instrument assisted soft tissue techniques, strength training, and pediatric fitness. Stay connected with Dr. Goodman on Instagram @washparkchiro or @lisakgoodman