OVERUSE INJURIES FROM YOUTH SPORTS
Most people know that youth sports are not what they used to be. What was once a couple neighborhood kids playing pick-up games after school is now highly organized, focused, and competitive sports. Rather than playing multiple different sports a year, kids (especially those who show exceptional promise early) are specializing in one particular sport – often playing it all year long.
While parents and coaches think this gives their child the best chance at a college scholarship or a career as a professional athlete, there is more and more science suggesting that this kind of singular focus and constant activity has detrimental long-term effects.
The Washington Post recently ran a piece on this issue, specifically related to high school basketball players in the area. Doctors are seeing a significant increase in ACL tears in young athletes, not because of impact with other players, or falls on the court. Most of these are coming from overuse of the knee. The injury requires surgery, with at least 9 months of recovery.
What Can You Do To Protect Your Child From Overuse Injuries?
Urge them to stay well-rounded, playing multiple different sports over the course of the year. It’s easy to forget that the human body continues to develop into the early 20’s. Playing the same sport all the time works the same muscles and joints, causing wear and tear on the same parts. Playing a variety of sports works different muscle groups, evening out the parts of the body getting the most impact.
Insist that they REST. Athletes and coaches don’t like to hear this, but it’s important that they take breaks and let their bodies rest and recover. Playing on a high school team during the week, and then participating in multi-game tournaments or exhibitions over the weekends is draining. Build recovery days into your child’s schedule. Even if they’re a multi-sport athlete, try to make sure they take a week off between seasons to reset themselves both physically and mentally.
See a physical therapist for preventative care. Young athletes seriously focused on one sport should see a physical therapist to be evaluated for “injury potential.” The PT can determine weaker areas and provide a program to strengthen them, and hopefully prevent potential injuries.
It shouldn’t need to be said, but sports for kids should mostly be about having fun and learning great life lessons like: teamwork, commitment, and work ethic. The truth is very few youth athletes will ever get a college scholarship, let alone play as a pro. But if your child seems destined for greatness, it’s important to do all you can to prevent overuse injuries. Schedule a consultation for more information about injury prevention specific to your child and their sport.