How does physical therapy help adolescent athletes?
Study carried out by Occupational Therapists with adolescents playing in a cadet team of the Aragonese Base Football league. The present work arises from the idea that it is possible to enhance the cognitive abilities of adolescents, in such a way that it produces observable results in a significant activity for them, soccer. The next step of the work would be to verify that this improvement in the cognitive performance of boys can be translated into better performance in the classroom.
Movement and motor activity are very present in the global development of the child, helping in the formation of the body schema, socialization, the establishment of laterality, dissociation and motor execution, postural tonic control, orientation and spatial structuring and the formation of self-concept and occupational identity. These aspects have a significant influence on school development.
In the first years of life, the child’s brain is characterized by plasticity, that is, the possibility of molding itself according to experience. It is important to point out that the achievements reached due to brain plasticity are more accentuated in the first years of life; however, although brain plasticity decreases with the years, it does not disappear completely; therefore, in later years of childhood, changes in the nervous structures can continue to be achieved, although the most accentuated effects are greater in the youngest children.
Digistani maintains that 75% of the maturation of the nervous system is genetically programmed, the other 25% is subject to experience; for this reason it is possible to achieve a better development if it is provided in the stage of brain plasticity, enriched environments for this purpose. It should be taken into account then that the development of children depends on their environment and the stimuli they are given and not only on their abilities.
In team sports, the players’ decisions are determinant in the team’s performance. In a set of action alternatives for each context, the players’ ability to choose the most appropriate action from the strategy or from their personal repertoire defines the team’s success. It is well known that experts and successful players anticipate better than novices and less successful players. This anticipation, specifically spatial anticipation, is a key psychomotor skill that determines a high quality of play.
– To enhance cognitive functions (attention, memory, orientation, visuospatial, perceptual and executive functions). – Promote instantaneous decision making and focus attention, inhibiting those stimuli that can be distracting and divert their attention in the game. – To favor a feeling of competence and self-efficacy in the player’s role, thus affecting the general functioning of the team. – Improve anticipation and coordination. The phases of the intervention program were: 1. Evaluation; 2. Intervention by means of a weekly half-hour group session on the playing field itself and during training hours; 3.
The assessments had improved. The sports performance of the team as a whole was satisfactory at a general level for players, technical staff, club management and parents. Players, coaches and parents expressed their satisfaction with the program at all times.
We ask ourselves these questions for the future:
– Will we have better athletes in the future if we train players’ brains?
– Will benefits be obtained in other facets of their lives through this cognitive-sports training?
– Would it be useful to apply these techniques with children who present difficulties in the classroom using a normalized activity such as soccer or another sport?