Youth sports play many important roles. Among the positives, sports help kids meet the recommended 60 minutes of exercise per day, develop athletic skills, instill responsibility, introduce teamwork, and forge new friendships. How do we keep kids from getting sidelined from overuse injuries?
The American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) reports, “Many sports injuries in young athletes — particularly elbow and knee injuries — are caused by excessive, repetitive stress on immature muscle-bone units. Doctors are seeing an increase in overuse injuries because many young athletes are focusing on just one sport and are training year-round.”
The AAOS has partnered with STOP Sports Injuries to educate parents, coaches, athletes, and healthcare providers in an effort to reverse this trend. Two recommendations are:
- Limit the number of teams (in the same sport) kids play on each season. “Kids who play on more than one team are especially at risk for overuse injuries.”
- Diversify…don’t let them play one sport year-round. “Taking regular breaks and playing other sports is essential to skill development and injury prevention.”
STOP (Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention) Sports Injuries offers many sport-specific resources to keep kids in the game. For example, the group offers specific recommendations for baseball players to help prevent shoulder and elbow injuries. These include maximum pitch counts and required rest periods based on a child’s age.
- Injury surveillance
- Pre-participation physical exams (PPEs)
- Identification of physical risk factors (i.e.; bowed legs, knock knees, pelvic rotation, hypermobility)
“Variety is the spice of life.” It’s also the recipe for keeping kids in the game and off the injury list.