March Forum: Youth Sports Injuries
In the past few years, we've been hearing more and more about the growing problem of sports injuries among youth athletes, particularly among young female athletes. What we found out is that this isn't just a national problem, it's a problem that has hit home locally in the East Bay, perhaps even more so because kids can play sports year-round here: CLICK HERE to read the story.
We'd love to hear from you on this topic. Does your child play sports year-round? Have they ever suffered an injury? Do you think kids should play sports all the time, or should we be giving them a break?
CLICK HERE to send us your comments on this issue—or just scroll down to check out your fellow readers' opinions.
Not only have youth sports injuries occurred because of year round sports, but for other reasons as well. First, competitive youth athletes are getting adult injuries because they are doing adult like workouts. Coaches sometimes forget that these are young children and teens, not olympic athletes. So much more emphasis is put on sports compared to even 20 years ago. Also, some kids are not putting enough time into getting the right nutrients through their food, stretching before workouts, and doing exercises to strenghten thier muscles and ligements that are more suseptable to injury. For example, Fractures occur when bones aren't strong enough to handle the constant pressure put on them. Muscles are pulled and torn when they aren't loose and stretched out.
Dear Diablo Editors,
As fitness professionals who regularly see local teen athletes, we read your article “Sidelined” with interest. While we agree wholeheartedly with the problems and solutions presented in the article, there is a whole component of this problem not addressed which we feel is of the utmost importance.
We all know, as a society our movement has changed drastically in the last 20 years. Those of us who are adults now, grew up, for the most part, playing outdoors, riding our bikes and playing games. Today’s children do not move as we did. They almost immediately become computer experts, playing games and surfing for hours on end. They have 3 to 4 hours of homework even in first grade, then they watch 3 to 4 hours of television. We have a valid fear of letting them “outside” to play, and when they turn 10 (or younger), we sign them up for competitive traveling sports teams. We exaggerate a bit here but we have seen this pattern in our clients far more than once.
When we play as children, we establish the basic neural connections needed to teach our muscles stability, reactivity, co-ordination, control, and most important, deceleration. High-level and even weekend athletes are injuries waiting to happen without this basic learning. During free, unstructured play without regimented competition, we learn propreoception, the ability to know where we are in space. When we are young, that free play allows us to learn how to fall, recover or arrest a fall. When we feel free to just move, we connect with our bodies not only on a physical level, but we learn to trust those bodies on an emotional level as well. We find out what movement is comfortable in our bodies and it may not necessarily be the sport that is available or that parents feel we should play. Learning to trust that innate intuition builds self esteem that we need. Awareness of movement response brings a lifelong connection with our bodies that promotes health and physical longevity. Without that connection however movement can become dysfunctional and we may become injured. Athletics as in general discourage that connection, athletes invited to work through the pain, come back too soon, and “take one for the team”. When that happens, our identity as an athlete is compromised; fear and uncertainty can creep in.
We live in a somewhat enlightened community as far as health and fitness are concerned, and for the most part have the recourses to allow our children to participate in high-level sports. Often a parent’s perception of their child’s exercise requirements only involve organized sports. We are doing our children a great disservice when this occurs.
We as parents and coaches need to make fundamental changes is the way we encourage our kids to move. We suggest four ways to do this:
1. Encourage what we call “free play” by doing what we did as kids. Set up your yard to play games like hopscotch, redlight-greenlight, freeze tag, dodge ball, jump rope, hula hoop, you name it. Don’t sell these games short. this is a cost effective way to teach a child movement.
2. Be mindful of year-round single sports. A periodization method of conditioning (a year-round plan that focuses training development in phases) should be incorporated in all athletic conditioning. A well rounded periodization training will include scheduled rest and “off season” activities that are different but complimentary to the athlete’s sport. use basic conditioning including the games mentioned above during “off” season.
3. Be careful of specialized sport acceleration programs as they often foster more and more ballistic and unsafe movements.
4. Be aware of your child’s coach’s abilities. The lowest level athlete often gets the same level coach. While coaches generally mean well, a lack of education, expertise and awareness coupled with a competitive spirit, puts your child at tremendous risk. Look for high-level programs with educated coaches who know that they don’t know it all.
The solutions above are meant to augment what was stated in the article. We feel that they are an essential part of your child’s health.
Katie Santos, Claudia Moose & Louise McMenamin
Owners of ABsolute Center in Lafayette, absolutecenter.net.
Sports are so wonderful for teaching our children so many important lessons about health, team work, and loving life.
But why we have to push them into year-round competition and drag them from city to city on weekends that make their parents crazy doesn''t seem like they we are teaching them those great lessons as much as making the whole family stressed out and crazy. Not to even mention the increase in injuries!
I guess it's one thing if the child is going to play college sports or olympics, but not that many of them are. So often, Mom is in one city with one kid, while Dad is in another city with another kid—what about family time?
You just know the pendulum is going to swing back—and when these children grow up, they won't be pushing their kids into year round sports and dragging them to hell and back.
The guiding principal should be doing what is fun for the whole family—too bad our sports leagues aren't designed to support that. And too bad we can't seem to put the breaks on the craziness
In response to the reader who asked, "What about head injuries?" the truth is, they didn't come up in our reporting process. We asked local doctors about upswings in injury rates, ie, what did they find they were seeing a lot of in the office? None of the doctors we spoke to noted any increase in head injuries. That doesn't mean there hasn't been an increase -- or decrease; helmets do help! -- in head injuries nationally or locally, just that it wasn't the focus of our reporting.
by Mary Pols, author of the sports injuries story.
What about head injuries?
As a health care provider, the growing number of sport related injuries presenting to my office has not only increased in recent years, but seems to be more severe in nature. I feel the intensity and competative aspect of todays youth sport program is excessive.
Brandon M. Holmes, B.S. D.C.