They call it the “one sport” injury.
“Overuse injuries in children can have a lifetime effect on their game and quality of life,” said Charles Bush-Joseph, MD, in a news release from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “As more athletes under the age of 12 focus on just one sport and year-round training, coaches, parents and athletes need to encourage youth to think about participating in a variety of activities to prevent injuries.”
The AAOS and American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine launched a public service campaign earlier this summer to educate parents about the benefits of playing a variety of sports. Playing sports helps children build strong bones and muscles. However, children who specialize in one sport are often more likely to develop overuse injuries from repetitive movements.
For example, in youth baseball, statistics show that pitching more than 100 innings per year more than triples a player’s injury risk.
Overuse injuries affect a large percentage of athletes from ages 5 to 14. Roughly 28 percent of football players, 25 percent of baseball players and 22 percent of soccer players in this age group experienced an overuse injury. The percentage was smaller for other sports with 15 percent of basketball players and 12 percent of softball players developing an overuse injury.
The AAOS recommends the following eight tips to help prevent overuse injuries:
- Get a pre-season wellness check to identify possible health concerns that may lead to overuse injuries.
- Properly warm-up and cool-down before and after athletic activities to prepare the body and help it recover.
- Regularly incorporate strengthening and stretching exercises into training.
- Hydrate adequately to maintain health and minimize cramps.
- Play different positions or sports throughout the year to minimize overuse injury risk.
- Don’t play while injured or in pain. Rest and taking care of injuries can help keep kids in the game for life.
- Don’t play one sport year-round. Encourage your young athlete to take regular breaks, including one season off each year, and alternating play in other sports to help muscles recover from use and prevent overuse injuries.
- Overuse injuries happen gradually over time. Sometimes, a young athlete may be injured but not know it, and not seek treatment unless there is severe pain. Talk with your athlete often to ask how they are feeling and if there are causes for concern. If an injury is determined, speak with a sports medicine professional and get proper treatment to prevent future injuries.
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