Friday, March 12, 2010
As has been mentioned in this site before, youth sport injuries are at an epidemic level (Youth Sport Safety Alliance). This is a silent epidemic that hopefully is not remaining silent any longer. The physical, social and psychological benefits that come from youth exercise and sport are too numerous to list. Once the emphasis of sport left that of being a benefit to the athlete and became a benefit to over zealous coaches and parents, the injury epidemic (in my opinion) began. Orthopedic injuries that are incurred during the adolescent years may (and often will) have a direct impact on the growth and integrity of the joint affected. Youth sport should be providing benefits instead of providing detriments due to the unnecessary and preventable (chronic and/or acute) injuries. For this to happen, it may take a complete shift in the current youth sports paradigm. In the quest to become “great” in a particular sport, the youth athlete is being robbed of the opportunity of becoming a “great” athlete. Every young athlete has a desire to reach the top of their sport, pushing the athlete too hard and treating them like mini adults may very well deny the athlete of this desire. There is a reason that college and professional athletes (who are well conditioned and have reached physical maturity) have limits on practice times and are provided mandated recovery periods. This reason is so that the athlete may avoid preventable injuries and function at a competitive level. Youth athletes who are still maturing, should not have to wait until they are in college before their sport activities are adapted in an effort to aid in injury prevention and improved performance. If sport and practice adaptations (in an effort to prevent avoidable injuries) are not made at this level, the youth athlete may never have the opportunity to become a college level athlete. Coaches and parents need to do their part in stopping this epidemic by providing age appropriate and developmentally sound instruction along with allowing the child to develop a life-long love for sport is a place to start. Parents need to insist that the coach remains current with age-level coaching techniques and injury prevention. Coaches need to insist that the child be provided an environment that includes a combination of rest and play. Both should educate themselves on the exposure to injury in their particular sport as well as read “Warrior Girls” by Michael Sokolove and “Game On” by Tom Farrey. It is no secret that exercise related injuries are caused by a mistake. For an athlete to excel, these mistakes need to be identified and then eliminated. It is not in my opinion the purpose of youth sports to create the mistake.