13 year old baseball phenom featured in Sports Illustrated;

College basketball scholarship offered to 10 year old;

14 year old signs professional soccer contract;

While one would think these are stories of fiction, they are actual headlines, and stories of children who are being pushed further into sport specialization at earlier and earlier ages. Specialization isn’t in itself a bad thing ,but it brings with it some risks. World renowned orthopedic surgeon James Andrews, MD has been arguing for years that this push to specialization may not be in the best interest of the child athlete.

Early specialization in one sport may create overuse injuries as the muscles are being used in the same way repeatedly. The muscles don’t have a chance to rest and recover, or to be utilized differently in varied sports. The adolescent athlete is at higher risk for overuse to begin with due to the very nature of their body constantly growing and maturing. Their body is working so hard to mature alone, that the additional stress of trying to get bigger, faster, and stronger at the same time can be detrimental to growth and development of the athlete.

Simple things can help prevent these overuse injuries in children:

  • Vary the training schedule to include cross training with different sports
  • Consult with a sports medicine expert, who can look for faulty movement patterns and muscle imbalances leading to overuse
  • Avoid a year round sports schedule, taking at least 1-2 months or 1 season OFF each year to allow the body to recover
  • Avoid pushing children through pain while exercising, a no pain no gain philosophy should be limited
  • Listen to your athlete. Burnout and overtraining can come in many forms besides pain. Irritability, declining grades, and significant drop in performance can all be signs of overtraining.

Visit the trained experts at Freedom Physical Therapy Services to learn more. They know how to identify signs of overuse, improve athletic technique and performance to minimize injury. Our therapists collaborate with Physicians, coaches and trainers to ensure athletes receive the most comprehensive care and return to sport safely.