Overuse injuries are becoming more common in young athletes, and one of the key reasons is specialisation in a particular sport at an early age.
That´s according to Dr. Matthew Silvis, medical director for primary care sports medicine at Penn State Hershey, in the United States, who said this week that there is a tendency for children to specialise in one sport at the exclusion of others at a younger age.
Silvis explained that this is often driven by parents who believe that their child needs to “start early and stay serious in order to get a scholarship or be the best.”
Yet in reality, many college and professional athletes did not specialise when they were younger, Silvis noted. “They were just really good at sports in general.”
It´s also worth remembering that children can be vulnerable to overuse injury because they are still growing and the epiphyses of their bones have not yet fused, an article on Patient.co.uk points out.
Unlike a trauma injury, overuse injuries are not always diagnosed and treated as soon as they should be. The pain can start gradually, getting worse over time until eventually it starts to interfere with participation.
“One of the best pieces of advice I can give to parents and young athletes is to do multiple activities,” Silvis said. “It´s much better to stay diversified.”
By taking part in a wide range of activities, overuse injuries are less likely to happen. There are other benefits, too: general fitness and stamina will be improved, not to mention the fact that it can be more fun.
According to Silvis, the element of fun is crucial.
“If a kid ends up getting burned out or injured, they are no longer having fun. We all need to remember that the number one reason kids play sports is to have fun,” he concluded.