Young athletes are a big part of my practice. From sprained ankles to separated shoulders to low back pain, my goal with them, as with all my patients, is to decrease pain and increase function as quickly as possible. But with young athletes in particular, I want to try to minimize the effect that an injury has on the rest of their body long-term. Our bodies are masters of compensation you see, so if one area becomes weak or injured or dysfunctional, another area steps up to counterbalance. And herein lies the problem: where did the injury start? Can we chase the dysfunction throughout the body to find the initial culprit?
Troubling trends that I’m finding amongst these young athletes are overuse injuries. Most often, these kids are playing their primary sport nearly year-round. Summer hockey. Winter ball. Indoor soccer. In 2016, the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine released an Early Sport Specialization Consensus Statement, which you can read by clicking HERE.
This is my favourite part:
“The primary outcome of this think tank was that there is no evidence that young children will benefit from early sport specialization in the majority of sports. They are subject to overuse injury and burnout from concentrated activity. Early multisport participation will not deter young athletes from long-term competitive athletic success.”
Please take a moment to read that again. “No evidence” of “benefit” from “early sport specialization.” And a whole lotta downside in the form burnout and overuse injury.
Make no mistake, I love youth sport. I’m a huge competitor and I was raised playing every sport around, as do my children. But remember, better movers make better athletes, and your child’s body will not learn to move well if it has only been expected to do the same thing over and over again. Multi-dimensional. Multi-sport. Multi-movement. That’s the key to a well-balanced athlete, and more importantly, a healthy human body.
If nothing else, I hope this post gives you some food for thought. Parents have thousands of choices to make throughout their children’s lives, and this one is a big one.