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Too Many Games Not Enough Sports Performance Training to Combat Injuries in Youth Athletes

Too many games not enough sports performance training/cross training

Here’s another case for offseason sports performance training to serve as “cross training” for all athletes.  The key word is athlete.  What kind of athletes are we developing?  One that is adaptable to various collegiate and professional tactical schemes/systems or a specialist at 16 that can only fit into specific situations and is injury prone because of early specialization?  Recent data is emerging and confirming that the later is correct.  I covered this in a recent blog post from another surgeon in Cleveland here. The reality is that at no point in the average youths life are they taught the basics skills of athleticism.   Physical education teachers are not being taught things like running and jumping techniques.  In addition to the educators/coaches being taught less, the gym class times are being cut as America falls further down the world list of  education or “smartness” and becomes more obese.    In the article below, a former AAA baseball pitcher who left the game to become an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in the shoulder agrees with us.   He thinks that this pictures occurrence should be more rare than it is(that’s not a tattoo, those are stitches after Tommy John Surgery);

What the stitches look like post Tommy John surgery looks like.
What the stitches look like post Tommy John surgery looks like.

It’s ok to feel insecure about having your kid being passes up by the others in your school district.  It’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by trying to have your kids keep pace with the “Jones’s”. “Doing it the right way” isn’t about having your child play over 100 game a year.  In some sports, that may be doubled when considering tournaments.

There really isn’t any point in playing a sport year round until an athlete is 17-18 years old.  The numbers don’t lie.  There’s still a very small chance(1% or less) that an athlete will play a D1 sport.  As a parent or athlete do you want #1 an overuse injury that could have been easily avoided by playing other sports and crossing training and/or #2 a burned out athlete?

Sport mimics life.  In life there is winning and losing.  Blah blah blah.  What’s being missed by the current generation is the lack of accountability and work ethic.  Practicing and earning ones success is being overlooked entirely.  Even in academia there are reports of increased cheating and increased drug use to improve test scores.  I’ve heard several stories about the wonders of taking “ADD” meds obtained from the “street” to increase focus for tests.   These are good kids who are high academic achievers.  My point is that good old practice and good old studying aren’t being done.  I know that I sound like Andy Rooney, but I train young athletes and have worked with well over 1,000 D1 athletes.  My wife is a professor at a PSU branch campus and shares similar feeling about our youth.

I believe in two things for increasing sports performance;

  • athletic development- developed athletes are healthier and are able to adapt to any situation as their level of play advances throughout their career.
  •  sports skills-  skills are different than technical or tactical elements of the sport.  In watching my high athletes compete in various sports over the coarse of thier seasons, I witness an advanced knowledge of high level offenses and “systems” but a complete drop off of basic skills.  In football lack of; tackling, pursuite angles, breaking down to make a tackle, blocking technique, and not “catching with their hands” are common place.  In ice hockey, a reduced skating ability and stick handling skills.   In basketball and soccer; terrible flat footed running, a lot of standing around instead of moving without the ball, and terrible “help defense” and lack of “boxing out”.  Those are only a few examples but I question how much practice time is spent on fundamentals instead of putting in collegiate and professional “plays”.  This is carrying over to the professional levels and we see it on a daily basis.  Tackling in the NFL can’t be considered good.

If sports aren’t played year round the additional money saving can be spent on private sports skill training and sports performance training or training done with a personal trainer.  Both are 5,000 word articles in themselves regarding lack of qualifications of some of these coaches but at least the athlete will have an improved sport experience by not playing multiple games every week.  Plus it’s almost impossible to develop sports skills in a game.  Taking 5-8 shots, catching 5 passes,  and 4 at bats in game don’t exactly develop skills that will allow the athlete to excel at the next level.  Games are not a place to fine to skills.


Article taken directly from

Sports Medicine Specialists Make Pitch to Prevent Overuse Injuries in Young Athletes

Sep. 24, 2013 — It stands to reason that young people who play organized sports are going to get injured.

But while young athletes are susceptible to the ankle sprains, wrist fractures and other acute injuries that are common among competitors of all ages, numerous studies indicate that approximately half of the sportselated injuries among children and adolescents in this country are caused by overuse.

These injuries — pitcher’s elbow, swimmer’s shoulder, runner’s knee, tennis elbow, tendinitis — are the result of repetitive stress on tendons, bones and joints. Because they develop gradually over time, they are not as obvious as bruises or breaks and can be more difficult to diagnose and treat. But they can also be avoided more easily.

“Overuse injuries in young people are definitely preventable,” said Dr. David Martin, an orthopedic surgeon at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “Athletes, especially kids, want to compete and don’t necessarily recognize when something’s wrong, so we have to be smarter than them.”

Involvement in youth sports has boomed over the last 15 years, to the extent that an estimated 30 million children and adolescents in the United States now participate in organized athletic programs. But the incidence of overuse injuries in young athletes has increased at a much quicker rate across all sports, for reasons that are no mystery to sports medicine experts.

“Participation has increased overall and the sports have become more serious, more competitive at an earlier level, so there are many more yearound athletes than there used to be and many more single-sport athletes,” said Martin, who is director of sports medicine for Wake Forest University athletics and team physician for the Winston-Salem Dash minor-league baseball team. “Kids playing the same sport yearound have no off-season, and this type of early specialization leads to more stresses and more overuse injuries than you normally would see.”

Playing different sports, on the other hand, is good for young people on multiple levels, said Dr. Daryl Rosenbaum, who specializes in family medicine and sports medicine at Wake Forest Baptist.

“You want to develop overall athleticism, even if you hope to excel in one sport, and playing different sports definitely helps with that,” said Rosenbaum, who has been a team physician for the U.S. Soccer Federation’s under-20 and under-17 men’s and women’s national teams and served as medical director of this year’s Winston-Salem Open tennis tournament. “You also want to avoid an overuse type of injury. It’s tough to go pro or be great in your sport if you injure yourself and fall behind everybody else.

“On the mental side of things, there’s avoiding burnout,” Rosenbaum added. “If someone’s pushed too hard too soon at one sport, they may get tired of it and then, if they don’t enjoy exercise or sports in the future, that can negatively affect their long-term health.”

That view is echoed by Dr. Michael Freehill, a Wake Forest Baptist orthopedic surgeon who specializes in shoulder injuries and assists as team physician for the Winston-Salem Dash.

“Playing multiple sports when you’re young, up through high school, is actually beneficial for all your sports,” said Freehill, who pitched in the minor leagues for six seasons before attending medical school, reaching the AAA level with two different organizations and making the 40-man roster of the Anaheim (now Los Angeles) Angels. “You’re utilizing different muscles and performing different motions, resulting in a better athlete overall.

“Additionally, you’re not over-taxing certain areas, such as the elbow or shoulder, as you would by playing the same sport all the time.”

Proper rest is also a key factor in minimizing the risk of overuse injuries. The body needs time to recover from strenuous activity, especially when it’s a young body with still-growing bones and still-developing muscles and tendons.

For a positive example of recovery time, Freehill points to major-league pitchers, who generally refrain from throwing for three months once the season ends.

“How can anybody argue that time off is not needed?” he said. “These are athletes who perform at the highest level, so it makes no sense to think that children who participate in sports can get by with anything less. The same rules apply to volleyball, swimming, tennis, basketball, all sports.”

Rosenbaum recommends that young athletes take at least one day off per week and at least one season off, at least from organized competition in a specific sport, per year. He also emphasizes that both children and adults must realize that “pain is never normal, especially in kids.”

“There’s no such thing as ‘just sore,'” Rosenbaum said. “It’s never ‘just part of the game.’ Nobody, especially a child, should ever push through pain.”

It’s unlikely that the pursuit of victories, championships, varsity letters, college scholarships and even pro contracts will fade from the youth sports scene anytime soon. But Martin, for one, believes that overuse injuries can be taken out of the picture.

“The key is education,” he said. “And it can’t be just, ‘Well, the doctor says you can only throw so many pitches.’ It has to be education for the family, the athletes, the coaches and the people who run the game. Little League baseball is one example — they’ve actually changed the game by putting in rules to protect the players’ health — so inroads have been made.

“We also have to educate players, parents and coaches to recognize the signs of overuse, to catch things before they develop into real injury.”

Perhaps the most important element, Martin said, is maintaining the proper perspective about sports.

“You have to attach importance to it, but you also have to be sensible,” he said. “What I preach is that we have to get everybody involved to think not only about today’s game, but about the season, about the player’s athletic career, whatever that might be, and about the rest of their life — especially if the player is 10 years old.

“We’re now doing that with concussions. We need to be doing it with overuse injuries, too, and I think that will come.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, via Newswise.