Kids and Sports – Don’t Train Too Much

My kids are quite involved in after-school sports and I worry a lot about them over-doing it as youngsters.  I really want to make sure that when they are in their 20s, 30s, and 40s they can be active and do the sports and activities they’re interested in.   I really love running and backpacking and am thankful that my high school and college sports didn’t leave me with any lingering injuries.

According to a new 10-year study, life-long injury can occur if kids train before they are fully developed. Kids are more susceptible to stress injuries in the back if they are training too hard and long before their bodies have fully developed. And what really worried me was that “The chance of a full recovery can be as low as 25 to 50 percent.” (See more in the NBC News article: Hey Coach!) Yikes!

A sports medicine physician cautions against specializing in just one sport before and during adolescence because bones, muscles and connective tissues are not fully developed. According to a NBC new article,

It found that young athletes who spent more hours per week than their age playing one sport – such as a 12-year-old who plays tennis 13 or more hours a week – were 70 percent more likely to get serious overuse injuries of the back, shoulder or elbow, than other injuries. (NBC News article: Hey Coach! by Steve James)

By that rule of thumb, my son is spending too much time training for gymnastics.  My son is 9, so according to the article he should spend just 9 hours a week at his sport.  He is a competitive gymnast and trains 12 hours a week and that will only increase as he moves up various levels.  He also plays recreational soccer (though he took last fall off). His best friend’s Dad is the coach and he is good friends with his soccer teammates. It definitely give me pause for thought, and we keep a VERY close eye on whether he is enjoying his sport/s or whether he wants to move on to something different. 

The NBC article said it is good for kids to switch up their sports so that they use different different muscle groups in different seasons.

Sports injuries in children are not a rare occurrence  More than 3.5 million children under the age of 14 receive medical attention for sports injuries (Children’s Hospital and Stop Sport Injuries). About 20 percent of children and adolescents participating in sports activities are injured each year, and one in four injuries is considered serious. But according to the CDC, more than half of all sports injuries in children are preventable.

So what category of sports cause the most injuries for boys? football, soccer, basketball and field hockey.

What category of sports cause the most injuries for girls? gymnastics, softball and volleyball. (Health Guidance.org)

What worries me as a parent is that some of these injuries lead to long term alteration of bone anatomy and hence life-long deformities.

Anyway, I wanted to share what I learned with you.  It’s a delicate balance of letting kids do what they love and making sure that they are safe and will have a healthy, injury free adulthood.  Oh the worries of parenthood, right?!!

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