Early Sports Specialization

Youth sports teach and develop life skills such as teamwork, responsibility, time management, and perseverance while improving physical and emotional health.

Traditionally, youth participated in variety of sports that would change as the seasons change. As an example, boys may have participated in baseball in the summer, football in the fall and basketball in the winter. Participating in a variety of sports over the course of a year helps develop different muscles and movement patterns. Muscles, tendons, and joints that are stressed during one season are allowed to rest during the next season.

More recently, sports culture has changed with greater options available to athletes including year-round specialized club teams, personal fitness trainers and private coaches. There is now an increased pressure on young athletes to specialize in one sport the majority of the year. This has led to a decrease in the number of multisport athletes at the high school level. There is evidence that early sports specialization increases the risk to develop overuse injuries. Younger athletes appear to be more susceptible to repetitive use injuries due to their developing tissues not being able to handle repetitive forces with out some period of time off. Some of these injuries include tendonitis, stress fractures, muscle strains and bursitis.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a set of guidelines to help prevent overuse injuries in young athletes. They include:

  • Limit each sport activity to five days a week (including competitive play, sports specific training, and scrimmage)
  • Rest one day a week from all physical activity
  • Take two to three months off of sports per year
  • Increase weekly training time, number of repetitions, and total distance by no more than ten percent each week.

If a young athlete does develop pain or sustain an injury it is important to manage it appropriately and “listen” to what the body is communicating through pain. The Physical Therapy experts at Physical Therapy Consultants can be a great resource to help athletes recover quickly and proper when injury does occur. Visit http://physicaltherapyptc.com/free-consultation/ to request a free consultation and a member of our care team will call you to answer questions you may have.

Dustin Eslinger, MA, ATC, ITAT
Athletic Trainer
Physical Therapy Consultants, Inc.

May 16th, 2018

Posted In: General

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