Sport Specilaization in Youth Athletes

September 10, 2014 8:45a | CORE PT & MC | by CORE Movement Specialists

Growing up in today’s sports world is tough on both kids and parents.  Competition is fierce and sport specialization has become main stream.  Pressure from coaches and scouts have parents fearing that their child may be left behind. Take baseball for example, pitchers as young as 14 are being scouted and even signing college scholarships.  These immense pressures have health care providers worried about what the future looks like for these athletes.

Youth injury rates have increased under the current sporting trends.  Kids are even sustaining “career ending injuries” that can have significant ramifications on their overall fitness and activity level throughout life.  According to the June 2014 Bleacher Report, in April and May alone 28 professional pitchers underwent Tommy John surgery.  Of those 28 pitchers, five were 21 and younger.  Even worse, the American Sports Medicine Institute reports the rate of this surgery in youth athletes was 0% in 1994 and since then has dramatically increased each year reaching as much as 32%.  Healthcare providers, parents and coaches must navigate the current trends to ensure kids stay healthy.  Parents can impact the long-term movement health of their child by 1) encouraging movement diversity, 2) ensuring plenty of rest, and 3) collaborating with coaches and movement professionals that understand a balanced training approach. 

Expand your child’s movement repertoire by encouraging variety and body awareness.  Your child doesn’t have to be a multi-sport athlete to develop a diverse skill set.  Make sure your kids have plenty of time for unstructured play, like a game of backyard tag or dodge ball.  Sign your kids up for non-sport camps in the summer and take those adventurous family vacations.  Well rounded athletes are more likely to be successful and less likely to sustain injury.    

Rest is crucial for tissue recovery.  In every sport some tissues are stressed more than others; over time those tissues are at risk of breaking down.  Professional athletes get an off season to recuperate mentally and physically, yet many youth athletes are deprived this reprieve. Consider your child taking at least one sport season off every year and make sure they get ample sleep throughout the season.  “Rest” doesn’t mean being a “couch potato” but is an opportunity to experience the movement diversity previously described. 

Collaborate with coaches and movement specialists who recognize the impact today’s training methods have on your child’s future movement health.  Youth programs should not be weighted too heavily on strength training.  Successful athletes possess keen body awareness as well as strength, speed, power, flexibility and a strategic understanding of the game.  Balance and coordination activities enhance body awareness allowing athletes to control the compressive and shear forces placed on the body during sport.  Make time for injury prevention, recognize the early warning signs of overuse injuries, and by all means ensure you kids are having fun.  These simple tips can keep your child successful in the game for life.