More than 36 million kids are participating in organized sports each year in the United States. Past studies have shown how extracurricular sports help young athletes grow and evolve in their sport, in school, later in life, as well as reaping numerous health benefits, and getting a better job. These benefits were the norm thirty years ago.
Over the last twenty years the injuries that young athletes have been
experiencing has been rapidly rising. There are more than 2.6 million children aged nineteen and under that are treated in emergency rooms for sports and recreation injuries each year. One of America’s largest pediatric health care and research centers reports that another 5 million kids are seen by their primary care physician, or a sports medicine clinic for injuries.
As it stands, 57 percent of all Tommy John (damaged elbows) surgery is being performed on young athletes between fifteen and nineteen years old.
A study form the Center for Research and Policy at Nationwide Children”s Hospital in Ohio found that between 1990 and 2014, the number of soccer-
related injuries treated in emergency rooms in the United States annually increased by 78 percent. The yearly rate of injuries increased by 111 percent
among youth between seven to seventeen years of age.
The injuries varied from rotator cuff tendonitis, muscle strain, stress fractures, growth plate injuries,and sprained or torn ligaments, particularly the ACL.
The question is-Why has there been such a dramatic rise in youth sport injuries?
Youth sports has become a multibillion dollar industry that has created a culture of more sports clubs and competitions. It has become a race for the young athlete to reach his or her potential as quickly as possible.
Early specialization coupled with inadequate motor skill development, does not allow for proper adaptations and development of the skeletal and neuromuscular system.
Not enough proper recovery or sleep, eating nutrient dense foods and drinking water also adds to the breakdown of young athletes. Throw in being ‘plugged in’ to frequently, which has been shown in studies to continually overstimulate the brain and nervous system. This puts the nervous system into the flight or fight response, which starts producing adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine.
Sadly, there is no consistent emphasis on creating ‘sustainable’ and healthy young athletes. A new paradigm shift is needed in coaching youth sports that addresses their long term physical, mental and emotional health, as well as prepares them for their journeys, not only as athletes, but as students, future professionals and human beings.