Dr. James Andrews, an orthopedic surgeon to many professional athletes came out with a video recently stating that what kids need is rest from their sport not more time in their sport. Many of the injuries that are occurring in kids today are because they are doing too much and what they are being asked to do, run faster, throw harder, is more than what their body can handle.
Most parents mean well and want their child to be involved in activities but what is the best way to go about it? How much is too much?
Seeing children in my office at such young ages playing so many games a week and putting a lot of stress on their bodies will lead to injury, not college scholarships as so many parents hope. I have had kids tell me, when their parents are not around, to keep them off the field as long as I can, they are tired and their bodies are breaking down. This is not a good position to be in when you are under the age of 18 and most of these kids are 7, 8, and 9 years old and have been playing their sport for years at very high levels. If your child winds up in a doctor's office because of shoulder pain or knee pain this is an issue of overuse and they are being set up to possibly tear or rupture something down the road.
When you are young there are ligaments and muscles and important structures found in the joints, such as growth plates, that have yet to develop fully. When you put too much stress on these structures before they are fully developed, you can cause them to develop incorrectly. So later in life, when kids should actually have the muscular strength to throw a decent ball or run a faster time, they are unable to because the foundation never formed correctly. Not allowing time for the foundation to be set before stressing it will put cracks in your child's physical development for life therefore making college scholarships a non issue.
Most of these children are playing the same sport year round and that leads to many overuse injuries. They are not properly training their core and building a strong foundation, therefore they are repeatedly taxing the same muscles and joints over and over. Taking the time to enroll your child in another sport or giving them just a chance to get stronger and build a foundation will actually make your child a better athlete. (Yes, giving your child a break from the sport they play habitually can actually make them better at that sport.)
Many parents and coaches still subscribe to the theory that to get better at the sport you must drill that sport day in and day out. In order to be a faster runner, just run more miles. This type of thinking is antiquated and is causing harm to the youth of this country. Medical research proves that doing sports specific strengthening and playing different sports, which will allow other, complimentary muscles to develop, will make your child a stronger, better and faster athlete. Having your child throw 100 pitches doesn't necessarily make them a better pitcher. But allowing them to rest from the mound and do rotator cuff exercises and shoulder stabilization exercises will allow for them to develop a stronger pitching arm which will then allow them to be a better pitcher.
There are great programs out there that teach skills and program development that allow for children to remain safe and not injure themselves. BucksMont Indoor Sports Center offers programs for kids of all ages that focus on skill work and developing the whole athlete, not just drilling your child until they have nothing left.
It is important that we as parents make sure that our children are getting the correct balance in their lives.