In today's sports culture, young athletes are being placed into competitive competition, high-performance training and having the pressure to win year-round.
Additionally, the culture surrounding training and exercise is somewhat toxic and glorifies "pushing your limits", "grinding" and overtraining, over prioritizing long-term athletic development. This has caused many issues for young athletes and parents and we will summarize them below for you.
Higher Risk of Serious Injury
The research shows that athletes who train year-round, without an offseason as well as those who engage in many forms of high-performance training in an effort to gain an edge over the competition are at higher risks of catastrophic injury.
A study at Brown University found that "kids who specialize in a chosen sport tend to engage in higher levels of vigorous exercise than their peers and may be more likely to sustain injuries, such as stress fractures, tendinitis and ACL tears"
Burnout is becoming more common among young athletes, particularly ones who specialize early and who feel pressure to compete and train seriously at a younger age.
Athletes who experience burnout often experience chronic aches, pains and fatigue, as well as a reduced enthusiasm for participation.
If you notice sudden feelings of stress or reluctance to go to their commitments, it could be a sign that they need a break. Listening to what the body tells us is always the best course of action. You might not want to rest, but taking rest when your body is telling you it needs it will avoid being forced to sit out due to injury or even quitting in the future due to burnout.
Higher rates of Overuse Injury
"The incidence of overuse injuries in the young athlete has paralleled the growth of youth participation in sports. Up to 50% of all injuries seen in pediatric sports medicine are related to overuse." (Brenner, 2007)
Overuse injury shows up in the following 4 stages:
1) Pain in the affected area after activity
2) Pain in the area during activity, without restricting performance
3) Pain in the area, hindering performance
4) Chronic pain, even during rest
Overuse injuries are caused when an athlete does not have the physical capacity to handle the frequency or intensity of what they are being exposed to.
Also interesting, is that early specialization in young athletes has been shown to NOT lead to the long-term success of the athlete. In some cases, there are stories of athletes who succeed, however the research repeatedly shows that this is not the norm. Check out this website here, for more studies on this topic.
What I am not here to do is to tell you to remove your child from sports and quick high-performance training. The research is clear, but the articles referenced all cite that a well-thought-out training regimen can mitigate the risk of injury, burnout and overuse by preparing the athlete for the demands of sport! If you have questions about how to do this or would like to join our training program please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org
Brown University. "For young athletes, sport specialization means an increased risk of injury." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 September 2019. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190923111609.htm
Joel S. Brenner and ; and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness
Pediatrics June 2007, 119 (6) 1242-1245; DOI: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/6/1242.2007-0887
Early Sport Specialization Part 2: Short-Term vs. Long-Term Athletic Success