In this article I want to touch on the use of plyometrics while training young athletes. Or should I say the "abuse of plyometrics" while working with young athletes. Fortunately most qualified trainers have a solid understanding of proper use of plyo's, where to implement them in a session, the frequency of sessions, as well as selecting the proper rep range.
With the powerful muscular contractions required when performing a plyometric exercise it's important that coaches and trainers follow strict guidelines when working with younger athletes. Inappropriate use of plyometric exercises is known to spawn over-use injuries in the form of patellar and Achilles tendinitis. Too often coaches with good intent push athletes beyond the "point of positive return." Meaning the young athlete is too fatigued to train properly, or in other words the central nervous system will no longer respond to training in a way that will result in the desired athletic effect. After all the central nervous system is involved since plyometrics is a neuoromuscular exercise.
Unfortunately the thought process for the individuals in charge of training sessions that go this way, are not on par with that of professionals who better understand the proper protocols for developing young athletes.
One way to safe guard your athletes while performing plyo's, assuming you understand the importance of proper take off and landing post and form is to treat it as you would speed training. Since running is a plyometric movement anyway, at the sign of form and times diminishing during a speed training session that's when the session ends. The same could be said for plyometric training. When (following appropriate recovery times between sets) and proper posture and expected measurable distances can no longer be achieved, plyometric exercises should end.
Remember even though a depth jump may require the legs to take the brunt of the force, the entire body is involved in accepting that force. And when proper posture and landing skill can not longer be attained, risk to injury increases exponentially. So when doing plyometrics with your young athletes, help keep them safe while allowing them to receive the optimal benefits of plyometric training by following age appropriate guidelines.