A lot of kids participate in sports year-round; baseball, football, softball, basketball, and soccer, among others, are very popular with kids. While sports are great for keeping children active, you should be aware of the effects over-training can have on a child’s body.
Too Much of a Good Thing?
Children can benefit from playing sports throughout the year. Besides keeping them active, sports can help children learn to work in teams and expose them to new experiences. Playing multiple sports can also prevent a child from “burning out” on a particular sport.
Practicing too hard and too often, however, can take a toll on your child’s body. This is especially true of kids who “specialize” in one sport. While you shouldn’t pressure your children into playing sports they’re not interested in, switching between sports can help to prevent overuse injuries.
It’s probably best, especially for younger children, to only have your child participate in one sport per season to avoid burnout. Ideally, if your child is playing multiple sports, he or she should participate in sports that stress different areas of the body. For example, soccer is mainly focused on the lower body, while baseball puts more stress on the upper body. This helps to prevent overuse injuries in a particular area of the body.
The shoulders and elbows are commonly injured in kids who participate mainly in throwing sports. A condition called medial apophysitis, often referred to as “Little Leaguer’s elbow,” is a common injury among children who play baseball. It is caused by excessive pitching, which can pull the tendons and ligaments in the elbow. The tendons and ligaments can eventually pull away from the elbow if left untreated, and can pull small fragments of bone with it, disrupting normal bone growth. This can cause deformity in the elbow.
In the spine, stress fractures in the vertebrae also common from overextension, particularly in football and wrestling. This is called a pars interarticularis fracture, which can lead to spondylolisthesis, a condition where the vertebra slips out of its proper position. If these injuries aren’t taken care of early on, they can prevent your child from playing sports in the future, and may turn into more long-term problems.
What You Can Do to Lessen the Likelihood of Injury
Even with the best preparation, injuries can happen. However, you can take steps to prevent unnecessary injury, and detect an injury early on before it gets worse.
Make sure your kids know to tell an adult if they are hurt.
Kids have a tendency to try to play even when they’re hurt, whether it’s because they are competitive or don’t want to let down the team. It’s important to let your kids know that they need to tell an adult if something is hurting them–even if it seems small. Catching an injury early can minimize the risk of long-term damage. A little competitive drive is good, but it’s important that your kids know they should never risk their health or safety to win the game.
Have your kids take breaks and rest.
Kids’ bodies often aren’t prepared to take stress of heavy practice sessions, particularly when they’re younger. They need time to recover between activities to prevent exhaustion and overuse injuries. If your child only wants to participate in one sport, have him or her take a break for at least a couple of months out of the year.
Be sure that they are adequately prepared.
Make sure your kids warm up before playing and stay hydrated throughout the game. They should learn the proper techniques for the sports they play to prevent injury. They should also be using properly maintained, well-fitted equipment. Playing surfaces should be maintained as well; playing fields with holes and ruts can cause kids to trip.
Most importantly, never let your child play if you think he or she might be injured. It is always best to have your children sit out for a few days with a minor injury, rather than taking the risk of the injury getting worse by letting them play.