Give Youth Athletes a Break

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This week I would like to share with you a recurring theme in my clinic. As I said before I work at a walk-in clinic at Blue Ridge Bone and Joint. One thing I amuse myself with is trying to see trends in my patient encounters. Themes include “Trampoline day” or “Slip and Slide Day”. Well this week has been “Pediatric Overuse Week”. 

With youth fall sports season gearing up, I’m starting to see the kids who never got better over the summer and are not able to perform with their peers. I saw a pair of overuse injuries in dancers, who were both practicing 12-14 hours a week on average most of the year. Also I saw a soccer athlete that hasn’t had an off-season in several years. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Society of Sports Medicine both recommend 3 months off of a particular sport per year to prevent overuse injuries. I would be more specific to lump certain sports together like overhead sports (tennis, volleyball, baseball, softball, swimming) or running and cutting sports (soccer, basketball, lacrosse, etc.). Multisport athletes should not to be throwing (pitcher or catcher plus quarterback) in multiple sports year round.  

When an athlete matures growth plates close, and strength improves allowing for less injury. Even so, college and professional athletes still take off seasons and cross train, so why would we expect our younger less physically mature folks to be able to do it? 

So back to my athletes practicing 12-14 hours year round. That is the equivalent training time required to prepare for the Ironman, and triathletes don’t do that year round. Something to ponder while we are on the sidelines this fall. Rarely does someone say, “If you want your kid to be great take the summer off. Let them free play and we’ll see you in the fall.”