As a parent, you most assuredly want your child to be as healthy as possible—but while playing sports is a great way to get exercise, some sports can put your child at a higher risk of sports trauma and overuse. Recently, a number of medical professionals who specialize in sports medicine have reported a rise in the number of young patients who present with repetitive use injuries and other sports trauma.
Youth sports are as popular as they’ve ever been, and as rigorous too. In the United States, an estimated 30 to 45 million children participate in organized sports that involve exhaustive training throughout the year. Experts believe that there is now a much greater specialization in one sport at a younger age, and training programs have also become more demanding in recent years. Furthermore, children who sustain injuries on the field or court often go back to playing before they have fully recovered—and the majority of them are not sufficiently trained in injury prevention.
Children and young teenagers are particularly susceptible to overuse injury due to the fact that their bones are still growing. Therefore, experts recommend that children avoid focusing on just one sport before the age of 14, as most injuries are seen in the children who participate in multiple seasons of one sport, rather than those who vary their athletic activities.
As for the most common injuries, many young runners are at risk for overuse injuries of the shin and knees; football and baseball players often sustain elbow and shoulder injuries; cheerleaders, skaters, and dancers are susceptible to ankle injuries; and gymnasts often suffer from wrist injuries due to the continuous force exerted on that part of the body.
Of course, injury prevention is the best form of treatment, and it’s essential for kids to learn warm-up stretches and exercises before any training session. As for how often your child should play each week, the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness recommends that children practice no more than five days per week, taking one day off from any organized training. They also recommend that every child take a yearly break from sports for two to three months in order to recover between seasons and heal any injuries they may have sustained during the training season.