As I was walking downtown the other day, I saw this sign up on a bus shelter from the American Academy of Orthropedic Surgeons:
More and more, young athletes are focusing on a single sport and training for that sport year-round — a practice that’s led to an increase in Overuse injuries. Left untreated, overuse trauma to young shoulders, elbows, knees, and wrists may require surgery and have lifelong consequences. For information on preventing and treating Overuse injuries, visit these sites: orthoinfo.org and stopsportsinjuries.org.
I played many sports when I was a kid. Football in the fall. Basketball in the winter. Baseball in the spring. All three in the summer. In fact, I looked forward to the seasons changing because it meant going from football pads to Air Jordans to catcher’s gear. I dropped basketball after 9th grade to focus on football and baseball, playing both into college and beyond.
The days of mulit-sport athletes are quickly fading, as kids are having to choose their single sport as early as elementary school. As a result, these kids are practicing and playing their sport year-round, often with professional coaches. Kids are developing repetitive pattern overload and frequently getting injured. They are also suffering from burnout. In a way, instead of having “athletes” we now have specific “players” — football players, baseball players, etc.
Kids that only play one sport miss out on overall athleticism. If I were to build an athlete in a lab, I would take the hand-eye coordination of baseball, the foot-eye coordination of soccer, basketball agility, football power, hockey toughness and the wrestling mentality. Then I would sprinkle in some martial art humility. The balance of all these sports gives kids a chance to develop healthy bodies and minds as well as having to react to new physical and mental challenges. They would interact with new teammates and make new friends. Same is boring. Kids need athletic variety.
Little leaguers should not have big league injuries. Save the torn ACLs and Tommy John surgeries for the pros. As fitness trainers and coaches, it’s our job to try to help kids become better, more balanced athletes. Because kids are exposed to such structured training at an early age, they might miss out on the “fun” aspect. We should all remember that kids play sports because they are fun and the chance for scholarships or gold medals is slim. Let’s prepare our kids to have success on every field they choose to play by helping them become functional athletes.