I’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.
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.