By Michele Howe.
When my kids were younger, each season brought with it a different type of sport. That meant fall, winter, spring and summer, they were participating (or just enjoying) varied kinds of physical activity.
As they got older, I started noticing that coaches were pushing for same-sport off-season training (year around). It bothered me for several reasons. First, I think kids need to explore a variety of kinds of activities to discover their giftedness (and they don’t know until they try new things). Second, the major push to be super competitive (at the risk of an athlete’s health) bugged me too. I’m all for athletic events and team sports if they teach kids to demonstrate good sportsmanship, a teamwork mentality, and it’s a health/strength enhancer (not detractor).
So, it was especially telling to me that some of my hesitations about year-round same-sport conditioning have a fact basis from a medical standpoint alone. Read on… you’ll discover some very good reasons for rethinking your child’s sports training regime as well as what to look for if you’re not sure when enough is enough.
Dr. Christopher A. Foetisch, orthopedic surgeon, weighs in on the trends he is observing between kids and sports training.
As a physician who specializes in sports medicine, I routinely evaluate kids with sports injuries. Over the past several years, I have noted an increase in problems related to overuse injuries.
• In years’ past, kids would play a fall sport, winter sport and a spring sport. This essentially amounted to a cross training program. Now children participate in outdoor, indoor and camps focused on one sport. As a result, their bodies are being subjected to repetitive stresses that result in overuse injuries.
• Typically, these problems are not serious. The child will experience pain in a particular body part that occurs after a specific activity.
• Occasionally, the pain will cause the child to favor or protect the painful extremity and this can lead to an acute injury that can be very significant.
• Parents need to be aware if the child is in pain at a level that begins to affect performance. If this occurs, the child should be rested for a sufficient period of time that allows the athlete to resume their sport without pain.
• If they resume their activity and the pain returns, the child should be evaluated by a physician experienced in sports injuries.
• Also, I am strongly in favor of children crossing training with different activities. I do not believe it is wise for a growing body to participate in the same sport or activity year round.
• I am commonly asked “How is my child going to get a scholarship if they don’t play and practice all year long?” My response is: “Schools do not give scholarships to injured athletes.”
As with anything in life there needs to be a balance. Certainly, in sports there can be too much of a good thing.