Young Athletes Specializing in Sports Risk Overuse Injuries, Burnout

Young Athletes Specializing in Sports Risk Overuse Injuries, Burnout

Young athletes who focus on a single sport face increased risk of overuse injuries, burnout, and stress, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. They released a report in August.

Kids who play several different sports are much less likely to sustain injuries and are more likely to remain active and continue setting and meeting athletic goals, the report states.

The analysis completed by the American Academy of Pediatrics revealed significant changes have occurred in the past 40 years. An increasing number of kids are active in adult-led sports, and at times the coaches’ and parents’ goals differ from the athletes’ goals. Some shoot for college scholarships, others shoot for a professional sports career as an athlete, but many just enjoy the sport. And opportunities for college scholarships and professional athletes are rare.

That said, kids who participate in multiple sports and play in diverse activities increase their likelihood of enjoying physical activity for the duration of their life and are also more likely to meet their physical goals.

The journal Pediatrics published the report Aug. 29 online. It will appear in the printed September issue.

An estimated 60 million kids aged 6 to 18 years play some kind of organized sport in the United States. This data is from the National Council of Youth Sports. Twenty-seven percent of those children play a single sport, often year round. Seventy percent of children abandon organized sports by 13 years of age.

The pressure to perform and continue training and working hard often diminishes the enjoyment kids experience. It feels less like play and more like work, in other words.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids enjoy multiple sports until about age 15, when they can focus on one sport. This will help reduce burnout and reduce the risk of sustaining an overuse injury.

If your son or daughter is adamant about wanting to specialize, speak with your pediatrician about your child’s athletic goals. Understand whether they are realistic and appropriate. In addition, it is important to pay close attention to the environment in which your child plays or competes. Elite programs can produce different, highly competitive environments that are difficult for some people.

It is also important for young athletes to take a few months off during the year. One month at a time three times per year is advisable. Use those months to rest, recover, and play other sports. It’s advisable to also take a day or two off each week to allow the body to recover.