One of the saddest developments in sports — at all levels — is the growing trend of youth and high school athletes specializing in one sport and playing that sport year-round. The results aren’t pretty. The professionalization of young athletes is resulting in more cases of overuse injuries, putting the future health and mobility of these young athletes in jeopardy. See “Year-Round Sports Lead to Injury Epidemic Among Athletes.”

“The amount of teenagers coming in [for overuse injuries] over the past five to ten years has dramatically changed,” says Dr. Mark Lawler, an orthopedic surgeon. “We call it an epidemic.”

Lawler says overuse injuries are becoming especially prevalent with teen females, a growth demographic for year-round club sports organizations. Year-round sports specialization causes stress on the same muscles and joints over and over again, with very little recovery time. However, complete rest isn’t necessary. Simply playing other sports or taking part in different exercises is enough to help the body recover.

“You don’t ultimately have to rest,” says Lawler. “What you have to do is cross-train and do some other activities so you can stay active with an overuse injury.”

There are a growing number of programs designed to reduce the number of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, especially for teen females. However, no prevention program is a match for overzealous coaches and parents who continue to subject their young athletes to sports specialization on a year-round basis.

“The whole notion of sport-specificity at a very young age is extremely dangerous,” says Holly Silvers, director of research at the Santa Monica Sports Medicine Foundation. “You’re basically using the same muscles all year round. That’s why these [injury] numbers continue to increase.” See “New Steps to Help Prevent Knee Injuries in Teen Sports.”

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


Comments are closed.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.