Overuse injuries in youth sports are on the rise. Data all across the country is backing up this position. Yet parents and coaches seem oblivious to the data, which then trickles down to the young athlete.
Why are these injuries on the rise you might ask? For one, growing bodies are only able to sustain so much REPETITIVE strain prior to injury. Two, fatigue- both mental and physical happen when young athletes play sports 5-7 days per week (week after week, month after month). And three, too many young athletes are specializing in one sport way too early in life. This truly does not create a better all around athlete.
Think specializing in only one sport is going to get you that college scholarship????….think again. Odds are much better of the 2 or 3 sport all around star taking that scholarship. The majority of college scholarship athletes letter in multiple sports in high school. Yes, some single sport athletes get that scholarship, but by a lower proportion. Will the teen even like the sport by the time they reach college or will they be burnt out? Growing bodies are not designed to be subjective to the same repetitive stresses….TIME for pushy parents and coaches to back off or risk injury to your child or team member.
Think I am just on my soapbox…yes and no. I am commenting on a study published in the journal Pediatrics which examined injury rates in high school athletes. They found teen girls were more injured than their male counterparts up to 3.82 vs. 2.24 per 10,000 exposures in some sports. They found injuries were more likely to occur during practice than competition due to the increased volume of practice. Think about how many practices your son/daughter has had, and as that number rises, they move closer to this statistic.
Think the injury bug will not hit your child? Push the delusional button. It is only a matter of time, not if BUT when. And here is the kicker, overuse injuries take much longer to heal. You cannot rush them or fail you will. Persistent pain and reduce performance if even able to participate will happen. I have been on both sides of repetitive strain as an athlete and in my job as a physical therapist. Let me tell you, I hated it as an athlete and dislike treating it because it is difficult to get compliance from the athlete.
The good new is, it is possible to reduce the risk. Do NOT specialize in sports before high school certainly. Take time off during the year. You should not participate in the same sport for 12 months straight. Find another activity during an off-season, cross-train. Caution with participating on multiple teams of the same sport….only increases exposure to repetitive strain and gives body less time to recover. Finally strength training. Important for all athletes and that it be tailored to their specific sport AND their weaknesses. General programs are nice and all, but specific to the athlete is better. If you are female (of any age, but especially a teen)…time to work on those hips and glutes. Those are crucial to limit your injury risk.
If we are truly serious about the health of our youth, then time to stop pushing one sport and encourage multiple activities.