There was a time not long ago when young athletes who were looking to recharge their batteries and gear up for their next season took their training a little easier in the summer. But these days, playing a sports has become a year-round endeavor for many youths, who feel pressure to focus exclusively on one sport in their efforts to play at the high school and collegiate levels.
Sports medicine division
While there is credence to the saying, “Practice makes perfect,” too much practice can sometimes lead to overuse injuries, according to Dr. Winston Gwathmey, an orthopedic surgeon in the University of Virginia’s sports medicine division. UVA Today recently caught up with Gwathmey to talk about what he’s seeing in the clinics.
What really leads to over-specialization is that when the kids get really good at something; all the parents out there want to give their kids opportunities to succeed. The kids you worry about are the ones who do a sport for their school, a club team; so then do showcase stuff all summer and then keep going in the fall season. They basically play year-round. Kids’ skeletons are still maturing and growing. They have growth plates, and that’s kind of the weak point in the bones during adolescences.
They think The Tommy John epidemic is twofold. One, you have kids who are specializing earlier, when they’re 12, 13, 14 years old. And the kids who tend to show aptitude the ones who are good get the most reps. Two, the perceive success of the Tommy John operation I think has allowed kids to think that if they’re not throwing the way they want to throw; so that the operation might be an avenue to throw faster.
Play baseball for a season
When you’re trying to run for distance, you can get stress injuries. You can run so much that the bones start to fatigue in areas and you can get stress fractures. Gymnastics is another. A lot of the sports where there is a lot of repetitive movement and pressure behind the sport to succeed they think might be more at risk. They would recommend that kids play multiple sports. If you think about any motion or activity if you do it repetitively enough, it’s going to tend to fatigue the muscles and burns the energy that is supporting that activity.
In baseball, for instance, if you throw a baseball 100 times, that’s 100 times your shoulder has to undergo the arc of motion, the acceleration, the deceleration. If you have a micro injury that occurs with that and accumulates, that’s where you get into trouble. If you have a kid who’s a good athlete and he’s going to play baseball for a season, have him play soccer or another sport the next season which uses a completely different set of muscles and bones and allows musculoskeletal systems to develop properly.
It’s much, much better to be active. But just realize that early sport specialization can promote overuse. Think about using your body in different ways. There are certain things you can’t ever get enough of. Running and jumping and playing and all that stuff is great, but really it’s when you start doing the same thing over and over again that can lead to problems. You’d rather have them out there and active, but just encourage them to play multiple sports and listen to their bodies.