Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Young Athletes Should Play More Than One Sport

Young athletes who play just one sport and train intensively have an increased risk of stress fractures and other severe overuse injuries, says a new clinical study, the largest of its kind.
Young athletes who spend more hours per week than their age playing one sport are 70 percent more likely to experience overuse injuries than other athletes. Take for example a 12 year old gymnast who spends 15 hours a week training. They would be a prime example of someone with an increased risk for stress fractures.
Loyola University Medical Center sports medicine physician Dr. Neeru Jayanthi presented the findings on April 19th at the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) meeting in San Diego. The study is called "Risks of Specialized Training and Growth in Young Athletes: A Prospective Clinical Cohort Study."
Jayanthi said at the meeting, "We should be cautious about intense specialization in one sport before and during adolescence. Among the recommendations we can make, based on our findings, is that young athletes should not spend more hours per week in organized sports than their ages."
Jayanthi and colleagues at Loyola and Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago enrolled 1,206 athletes ages 8 to 18 between 2010 and 2013 who came in for sports physicals and treatment for injuries. The research follows each athlete for the three years of the study.
Overall, there were 859 total injuries, with 564 of them overuse injuries. Of the 564 overuse injuries, 139 were serious injuries, such as stress fractures in the back or limbs, elbow ligament injuries, and injuries to cartilage and underlying bone. Injuries like these can sideline an athlete for up for six months, depending on the severity.
The study confirmed the preliminary findings, which stated that playing one sport increases the risk for overall injury. Other findings from the study include:
  • Young athletes who spent twice as much playing organized sports as they did in unorganized free play were more likely to be injured. 
  • Those who had serious injuries spent more than 21 hours per week in physical activity, including 13 hours of organized sports. Athletes who were not injured spent 17.6 hours per week in total physical activity, including just 9.4 hours of organized play. 
Jayanthi and colleagues have the following recommendations for young athletes:
  • Do not spend more hours a week in your sport than your age. If you are 11, do not spend more than 11 hours per week in that sport. 
  • Do not spend more than twice the hours playing organized sports as you do in the gym and in unorganized play.
  • Do not specialize in one sport until you are in later adolescence. 
  • Do not play sports competitively year round. Take a break of at least one to three months per year from sports. 
  • Have one day a week when you do not play your sport. 
Jayanthi and colleagues are planning a follow-up study to see if their recommendations reduce the risk of overuse injuries. The study is called TRACK: Training, Risk Assessment and Counseling in Kids.
"We will test our hypothesis that many of these serious injuries are potentially preventable," Jayanthi said.
Reference: Science Daily.
If you are the parent of a young athlete and they have a foot problem, call our Newington, Kensington, or Middletown office to make an appointment.
Craig M. Kaufman, DPM
Connecticut Foot Care Centers
Sports Medicine Podiatrist in CT
Podiatrist in Newington
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