To_Play_or_Not_To_Play

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					Title:
To Play or Not To Play

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946

Summary:
Those of us with kids involved in youth sports know how consuming it can
be for our families. Weekends are dominated by games and weekdays by
practices. The ties that bond us together are often tightened during
these activities, but do our kids do too much too soon?


Keywords:
kids sports coaching, sports training, sports camps, kids camps


Article Body:
Those of us with kids involved in youth sports know how consuming it can
be for our families. Weekends are dominated by games and weekdays by
practices. The ties that bond us together are often tightened during
these activities, but do our kids do too much too soon? When many of us
were kids, there were not nearly as many organized activities; now that
we have martial arts, religious studies, team and individual sports,
family time and, of course, homework. Is there a right time to start to
play or not to play? Like many parenting decisions, including those for
youth sports, there are no black and white answers. Of the many variables
to consider, this month we’ll focus on the potential injury risks.

What is the likelihood of Injury?

A common concern is that younger kids may be more susceptible to severe
injuries before they have fully developed. Is there a greater risk of arm
damage for kids who start pitching at age of 7 instead of waiting until
they are 9? Should kids avoid tackle football until the reach a certain
age? Does specialization in an individual sport increase the risk of
injury for that child due to overuse and make them more susceptible to
continuous motion injuries?

Injuries are certainly a concern for all of us and the risk of injury is
considered a growing problem by many experts. According to the “Kids’
Health” supplement in the October 18-20, 2002 weekend edition of USA
Today, there are over 3.5 million sports related injuries that require
treatment reported each year for kids under 15 years old. Many of these
injuries are from playground equipment, bike riding and other activities,
but organized youth sports certainly contribute to the total.
Fortunately, there are very few deaths, but the information suggests that
40% of all sports related injuries occur in children under 14 years old
and more than half of those injuries take place in practices instead of
games. In 2002, from information accumulated from the “Connecticut Safe
Kids Sports/Recreation Activity Injury Fact Sheet”.

While this data is certainly misleading and flawed because it doesn’t
break down the number of participants in each sport, the frequency of the
activity or the severity of the injury, it does demonstrate that injuries
are something we should pay attention to.


Types of Injuries

In the newsletter published by the Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital,
pediatrician Deiter Lindskog, MD exclaims that the largest increase in
youth sports injuries are due to repetitive use. He states “Recent
studies estimate that 30 to 50 percent of pediatric sports injuries are
caused by overuse, with the frequency of injury equal among boys and
girls.” Because they’re still not fully developed, kids are more
susceptible to repetitive use problems like stress fractures, caused by
use without enough recovery time, growth plate injuries, due to excess
strain, and soft tissue damage to muscles, tendons or ligaments.
This would lead to the question of “how much is too much? The research on
this isn’t clear at all. With increased specialization where kids
participate in only one sport year round, start playing at a younger age
and participate in multiple leagues at once, what is clear is that many
are crossing that unknown line.

While there is a tremendous amount of flexibility in these
recommendations, the main issue is that care should be taken to watch for
signs of trouble. There is no evidence to suggest a higher injury rate
for Pony League Baseball, which often starts kids pitching at age 7, when
compared to Little League Baseball, which often starts kids pitching at
age 9.

 Studies done with Pop Warner Football players also show that there is a
risk of injury, but surprisingly, younger players are less likely to be
injured than older players. Supported by studies done by the Institute of
Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma in New York which completed a study
in 71 towns covering 5,000 players, the Pop Warner Website
(www.popwarner.com) states that because of the weight restrictions
“injuries in youth football are normally mild and older players have a
higher injury rate than younger players.”


Conclusion

As people involved in youth sports we need to be aware of safety and
injury risks associated with the children we watch. Kids specializing in
single sports or playing in multiple leagues have exacerbated the risk of
repetitive motion “overuse” injuries. We need to be especially aware for
these young athletes and be cognizant of the warning signs. Some things
to watch for include pain, changes in gait or other observable behavior,
changes in performance and psychological effects. Kids should not be
encouraged to play through any real injury because they don’t want to let
down their parents or teammates even though they may feel like they can
do it.

We want to help prevent injuries through proper training and
conditioning. An effort can be made to have children compete at levels
commensurate with their skill so that they don’t overdo it. Furthermore,
efforts must be made to teach proper fundamentals for all aspects of the
game since mechanical errors are more likely to lead to flaws that can
cause injury. Because practice makes permanent, it is crucial to work on
these fundamentals even at an early age. As youth sports enthusiasts, we
all have an obligation to take care of the kids.

About The Author

Ken Kaiserman is the president of SportsKids.com, a leading youth sports
website featuring games, sports news, sports camp and league directories,
community features, hosts SportsKids.com Superstore with over 150,000
products. Ken coaches youth football, basketball and baseball. He also
serves on the local little league board of directors as well as the Park
Advisory Board.

				
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posted:4/26/2010
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