by Craig Brown
Participation of youth in sport has many great benefits like improving physical fitness, promoting positive social interaction and boosting self-esteem. Although participating in sport carries a risk of injury, certain steps can be taken to minimize the chance of injury.
In a five part blog series, I will be discussing various approaches that can decrease the chance of injury. They include:
Part 1: Diversifying the Athlete’s sport participation
Part 2: Proper Warm Up
Part 3: Movement Screening
Part 4: Returning from an injury when Return to Sport Criteria is achieved
Part 5: Performing a maintenance exercise program
Diversifying the Athlete’s sports participation
Early specialization in youth sport is becoming more prevalent. The theory is that, by getting increased exposure to a sport at a younger age, the individual skills of the athlete will develop more quickly. The problem with this increased exposure to just one sport leads to the young athlete performing the same movement patterns, repetitively. This can lead to a higher incidence of injury due to this repetitive movement.
Dr. Neeru Jaynathi, a medical doctor out of Loyola University in Chicago, followed 1200 young athletes (age range 8 to 18) over a period of three years. The study found that more specialized athletes were 2.3 times more likely to get injured. Their specialization was based on a six point sport specialization questionnaire using if the athlete:
1. Trains more than 75 percent of the time, in one sport
2. Trains to improve skill, or misses time with friends
3. Has to quit other sports to focus on one sport
4. Considers one sport more important than other sports
5. Regularly travels out of state (American study)
6. Trains greater than 8 months/year and competes greater than 6 months/year
This study concluded that for youth to avoid sports related injury:
A) Athletes should not compete in more hours of training per week than their age, and
B) The amount of time in one sport should not be more than 2x greater than other sports/activities
The above recommendations reflect the benefits of diversifying the young athlete’s activity participation, in helping decrease their chances of injury. The addition of another sport into already busy lives can be difficult, but diversification does not have to involve another organized sport. Letting young people play other sports in school, or with friends after school can also help to prevent injuries down the road.