One of the troubling implications of early sports specialization is a rise in overuse injuries among young athletes. Here’s everything you need to know about why growing bones need balance (and rest).
What are overuse injuries? These injuries happen when demands are placed on tissue that go beyond its capacity and ability to recover. They’ve become more common among young athletes because their bodies are still developing, their joints don’t have the strength of adult ones, and they may not yet have basic physical literacy.
Why are they on the rise? The intensification of single-sport training means an eight-year-old pitcher may spend five days a week practising his curveball without doing the necessary balance work. That means his body might develop unnaturally around overused area.
How can my kid avoid injury? Giving growing bodies the chance to rest and recoup is key (having kids spend at least a couple of months not playing their primary sport), as is developing general athleticism through unstructured play and multi-sport participation.
What are the most common injuries? Among baseball players, arm ligament injuries are common, and female soccer players often have issues with their knees. “Some studies suggest young female athletes are four to six times more likely than boys to suffer a serious, non-contact ACL knee injury,” chiropractor Dwight Chapin says.
Is the damage reversible? The good news is that young bodies are incredibly resilient. “It’s an important message to raise the concern around the risks, but it’s not all doom and gloom,” says Chapin, noting there are responsible ways to focus on a sport. It’s essential to have a balanced approach to training, and an emphasis on rest and recovery.