Sports related injuries in our children are increasing at an alarming rate. Single sport specialization and over-training is rampant in youth sports. An entire industry is being built around this concept. Youth coaches, strength coaches, conditioning coaches, pitching coaches for 10 years olds and so on add to the overall risks. As a sports medicine physician I no longer see seasonal injury patterns. Instead I’m seeing the same injuries year round. These injuries include:
- ACL injuries
- Tommie John Ligament – UCL of the elbow
- Hamstring tears
- Stress fractures
- Ankle sprains
- Shoulder instability and labral tears
- and on and on.
For years, many prominent sports medicine physicians have spoken out against the risks of single sport specialization. As more and more research on the topic emerges, it has been shown that having your child only train for a single sport, year round, is the number one predictor of developing a sports related injury. The exact injury will depend on the sport. Sadly, the effect of that injury may be with your child for a lifetime.
Many parents believed that single sports participation would improve their child’s chance of remaining active in sports.
Recent studies show that children who specialize in a single sport are more likely to burnout, quit and remain inactive.
Many parents feel that single sports specialization is the best way to have their child noticed by a college scout.
The vast majority of college athletes are involved in more than one sport. Each sport teaches different tactics which are applicable if applied to their primary sport. Each different sport trains our muscles, ligaments and mind in a different manner.
Many parents feel that early single sports specialization is the only way to have their children attain a certain skill level.
Again, a child started in a single sport early on is more likely to burn out and not return to any sports. They are more likely to be injured and not be able to return to their chosen sport — or they might need to endure the recovery from a surgical procedure which could impact their lives forever.
We all love our children. You would never intentionally put your child in harms way. Unfortunately with the research coming forward on the evils of single sports participation it appears that is exactly what we are doing.
The huge majority of you reading this have children who will not qualify for any sports in college or beyond. They have an infinitesimally small chance of hitting the Big Leagues or the Premier League. Let your child enjoy being active. Let them learn the importance of being a team member. The lessons learned in sports carry far beyond the playing field. With an obesity epidemic looming, our number one goal should be to have an active child who enjoys sports so much that they will chose to remain active for decades to come.