• Sat, Apr 20 - 3:30 pm ET

Back Off Pushy Parents, Your Kids May Incur A Sports Overuse Injury

baseballI’m not really surprised by this. A study by Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago revealed that children who spend a large chunk of time practicing a single sport are 70 percent more likely to incur serious overuse injuries. I’ll just go ahead and add this to the long list of reasons my husband and I are waiting to start our daughter in a sport until she is old enough to choose one herself.

From Today.com:

Dan Gould, director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University hailed the study as providing data on the dangers of pressing children to succeed earlier at a particular sport.

“It’s not bad for a kid to start a recreational sport at four, but specializing? We are seeing more ‘Little League pitching elbow’ from repeated exposure,” he said, referring to a common injury in young pitchers trying to throw faster fastballs and curveballs that can distort the arm muscles and joints.

This whole behavior of pushing one’s child to the limit in a sport is completely bizarre and foreign to me. I didn’t play a sport until high school, and even then I chose volleyball of my own volition — no encouragement from my parents whatsoever. The only thing my parents really enforced as a child was to work hard on academics and be a good person. The result? I graduated college, I have a healthy sense of competition with others, I’m physically fit (without being obsessive about it) and I play volleyball on a community team.

Maybe this would’ve been different if I had been a boy, though. I know there’s way more pressure on boys than girls to excel in physical endeavors (I mean, how often do you hear someone complimenting a baby girl for her strapping, linebacker-bound figure?) But then, maybe this isn’t true. Look at the little girls on Dance Moms. The training those girls go through is every bit as rigorous as a young boy training to be a pitcher. And then there’s gymnastics, a sport that truly favors the young. If a little girl wants to be an Olympic gymnast, there’s really no way to earn that without putting in ridiculous hours as a child.

To each their own, I guess. I just think it’s important for kids to understand that bodies are unreliable, and if you’re going to choose a physically demanding career, you’d better have a backup plan in case you sustain a sports overuse injury.

(photo: Stuart Monk/Shutterstock)

 

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  • Justme

    But nowadays to play on a sports team in high school, you must have been playing sports for any number of years and be playing it outside of school. The high schools in my area are all 5A schools with around (if not more) 3,000 kids. There are tons of athletes to choose from and therefore the competition to make the team is intense.

    Even on the middle school level, I coached a group of 7th graders where the talent pool was so deep that if you didn’t have previous volleyball knowledge, you weren’t going to make the top level team.

    Since the passage of Title IX, the availability of select sports for girls has drastically increased and as the opportunities increase, so does the skill level and ability. I have 7th grade girls running quick sets and spot serving whereas eight years ago I was just hoping to have 7th graders that could overhand serve. I think these girls are the direct result of mothers who were just getting the opportunity to truly compete in high school sports in their own youth and now they are giving those opportunities to their daughter.

    A good book to check out on this phenomenon is Warrior Girls – it examines the pressure and mind set of these teenage girls and the culture that has created them.

    Having said all that, I coach middle school volleyball because I love the sport and I love teaching girls to love the game just like I do. If your daughter loves the game, let her play as much as she can.

    • Justme

      And just to note, most girls in middle school and early high school aren’t playing select sports with the singular goal of earning a college scholarship – they are playing just to make the team the following year. For my current 7th graders that were on my lower two teams, if they aren’t doing something in the off-season they will most likely not make the team in 8th grade. Same rules apply for making the freshman team at the high school.

    • Andrea

      I know what you are saying is true, and it makes me SO SAD. I will never put my sons through this though..I guess they are destined to suck at sports and never play them anywhere near competitively

    • Justme

      But you’re going to find pushy parents and competition no matter what your sons are involved in – theater, choir, academics…

      It’s not sad if the kids are truly enjoying playing the game.

    • Andrea

      I dunno..I find that kind of attitude wrong no matter what the setting is. Why can’t we just let kids be kids?

    • Justme

      If your kid wants to play and shows interest and aptitude, why not let them do it? There is a difference between supporting your child and pushing your child.

  • http://www.facebook.com/valerisexton.jones Valeri Jones

    “…if you’re going to choose a physically demanding career, you’d better have a backup plan…”

    Yes, I completely agree with this!!! Not just because our bodies may be unreliable, but also because these kids may decide they wanna do something else later in life – maybe a career in sports wasn’t what they thought it was gonna be, or whatever the case may be. I think it’s ALWAYS a good idea to encourage your kids to have backup plans no matter what they plan to do. Great advice, Amanda!

  • SusannahJoy

    Isn’t it kinda redundant to say that kids who participate in sports are more like to have sports injuries? I don’t see any problem with having kids play sports. Sports can be a great way to show that you don’t have to go to a gym and “work out” to be healthy and active, that you can have fun while being fit. They can teach teamwork and how to react to failure positively and how to be a gracious winner. I do agree that there’s no reason to push kids into being the best ever, or telling them that they should try to become a professional athlete when they’re still playing t-ball, but I don’t think that’s most people’s experience. I played softball and soccer as a kid, and then joined the tennis team in high school, and never felt like I was being pressured to compete beyond my level. My sister took all kinds of ballet classes, and her teachers were always very careful to not let the kids progress faster than their bodies could safely allow. Even if a 9 year old could go up on pointe, the teachers wouldn’t allow it because they knew it was bad for their joints, and that even a minor injury could have major repercussions.

    • Justme

      I’ve played competitive sports since I was 8….over 20 years now…and I learned all those great things you mentioned and had fun with my friends at the same time. At almost 30, do my joints pop and my knees ache more than the average 30-year-old? Of course, but I wouldn’t take all those years back – I spent them doing something I loved.