Sport specialization increases injury risk for high school athletes, study finds | Sport specialization increases injury risk

January 25 at 3:13 PM

High school athletes who specialize in a single sport are 70 percent more likely to suffer an injury during their playing season than those who play multiple sports, according to a study released late last month commissioned by the National Federation of High School Associations.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin measured the rate of specialization — meaning an athlete significantly sacrificed time with friends or family or participation in other sports — among 1,544 athletes in Wisconsin and tracked lower-extremity injuries. The study found athletes who specialized suffered those injuries “at significantly higher rates” than those who do not.

“We collected this much data and saw there is something here,” said Tim McGuine, the study’s author and a sports medicine researcher at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “It’s pretty striking.”

More than 40 percent of female athletes and 28 percent of male athletes surveyed reported specializing. Soccer was the most-specialized sport. Almost half of the athletes of both genders who reported playing soccer said that was their primary sport.

Muscle or ligament sprains were the most commonly reported injuries, mostly to the ankle or knee, which accounted for 59.4 percent of injuries reported.

Those injuries are a result of overtraining and exposure, McGuine said.

Specialized athletes who play or train for their sport year-round put more stress on a concentrated group of muscles, ligaments and bones related to their sport. A baseball pitcher, for example, places more stress on his elbow and shoulder than abdomen. He is more likely to suffer injuries to his arm than a nonspecialized pitcher because of the stress of training, McGuine said.

He is also more susceptible to injury because he is exposed to that sport more often. In other words, the more you pitch, the more opportunity for things to go wrong, even if they’re not stress-related.

“The more you play at any given activity, the more likely you are to get hurt, just out of exposure,” said William Roberts, a practicing physician and professor of family medicine at the University of Minnesota. “If you play club and high school sports, you play 10 to 12 months out [of] the year; that might be an exposure issue. For kids who play club and high school at the same time, it might be a fatigue issue.”

But the pressure to achieve in a single sport drives some athletes to continue to specialize and overtrain, said Jennifer Rheeling, an athletic trainer with D.C. Public Schools.

She tries to get football players to go out for the basketball team or run track in the spring. She tells sprinters to be wide receivers and high jumpers to play volleyball.

“I think they’re just so concerned that if they take a day off, somebody is going to get ahead of them,” she said. “These kids, they’re so good at football and basketball, they don’t want to be not as good at another sport.”

Roberts and McGuine recommend playing multiple organized sports but one at a time. Don’t train for track and football in the same season, but go ahead and work out for football and play pickup basketball later.

That kind of overtraining led McKinley Tech senior sprinter Denzell Brown into a years’ worth of stress injuries from which he is just now recovering. During the summer between track and football season, he used to wake up at 5 a.m. to do a full sprinter’s workout, go to work, hit the weight room and then do another sprinting or football workout at night.

After all that training, he wondered why he wasn’t seeing the improvement he wanted in either sport. At the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association track and field championships his junior season, a calf strain from those workouts, he said, caused him to hobble through the finish line of the 4×400 meter relay.

“My body was shutting down,” he said after the race.

“I realized I was putting too much stress on my body that I thought was hard work,” Brown says now.

He doesn’t regret specializing, he said — he is on the verge of a Division I track scholarship — but he did more cross-training or took more time off to rest over the past seven months.

McGuine has another suggestion.

“If you want to play basketball over the summer, do it, but don’t play 60 games,” he said. “Pick your spots. Be a swimmer, too.”

Five Ways Parents Can Build Mental Toughness | Parents Build Mental Toughness Athletes

Like it or not, sports come with pressure. There will come a time when your young athlete gets the ball with the clock winding down or steps up with the bases loaded. When that happens, mental toughness often determines whether or not they’ll succeed.

Even though you can’t be on the field or the court with your young athlete during these situations, there’s plenty you can do to help beforehand. Here are five methods to get you started.

1. Call Your Young Athlete a Competitor
Soccer Ball Parents“There goes our little winner” or “Here comes Johnny, our star goalie.” How do you introduce and describe your kid?

Be careful about using descriptors that emphasize only part of their identity. They are not always winners, and they certainly don’t always lose. A parent of an athlete I know once introduced her as “perfect little Sara.” That’s tough to live up to.

Your kids are only athletes some of the time. However, they can still compete in everything they do. They can compete in grades, paying attention and playing sports. Emphasize that competing means competing against yourself, not anyone else.

2. Love Your Partner
It’s easier for me to be a good parent than a good partner. I can love on my kids, but I also need to love with the help of my wife. With my wife, I have to listen, reflect, emphasize, budget, discipline, strategize and co-parent. It takes more work.

The most important relationships take place within the four walls of our home. How we interact, show affection and disagree with our spouse or partner models how our kids will see the outside world. And don’t forget: kids see everything. It matters how you act. Remember, you get to define what your children think is “normal” behavior. If they see aggression and resentment towards one another, they will approach others in the same way.

3. Think Ownership, NOT Buy-In
There’s a big difference between ownership and buy-in. Buy-in means that playing sports is someone else’s idea—usually yours. Ownership is more powerful because the desire to play comes from your kids. Doesn’t the best parenting take place when your kids think that they came up with the idea, anyway?

If competitors take ownership of their game, they will assume ownership within the team. Before each season, define your role and ask you kids what feedback they want from you. Allow them to pack their own bags, schedule their additional practices and use their free time. After the initial conversation, don’t intervene at anytime unless their safety or health is at risk.

4. Avoid Texting or Emailing
Sadly, we over-rely on texting to communicate. It is fine for simple notes and reminders, but never for complex issues, especially when feelings are involved. It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.Basketball Team

Most coach-athlete and parent-athlete problems result from lack of communication. Too often, we text important messages to our kids instead of setting a up a time to talk.

Kids develop mental toughness by overcoming adversity. They need to be able to communicate effectively with their coaches and fellow players. However, if we don’t allow them to use their own voices, they won’t be able to speak up when needed.

5. Don’t Talk About Other Players, Coaches or Teams
Sports are about winning, but they’re also about losing and getting better. No one likes losing, but it isn’t fatal. We help build our kids’ mental toughness by allowing them to experience setbacks and deal with adversity.

Too often, though, we try to make it better. If we try to remove their ownership by blaming anyone else, we give an out, an excuse. If there’s an out, they will take it and learn to use it. Bad calls, bad plays and poor execution happen, but what lessons are we teaching when we say, “It wasn’t your fault, it was something else’s”? By that logic, when our kids play well and win, it must also be due to something else. We can’t have it both ways.

Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis. Some clients have included: PGA Tour Champions, USTA National Champion, University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens.

He is also the co-author of the new book Don’t Should on Your Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness.

by Rob Bell | Feb 11, 2016 | Category: How To, General Sports, Sports Parents

What Single-Sport Specialization Really Means and Why You Should Care | sport specialization risks harm

There’s lots of talk lately about the problems that can result from kids specializing in one sport or one physical activity too early. These can include burnout, overuse injuries, mental and emotional fatigue, dropout from activity, and more. And there’s really no question—we know that specializing too early is a bad idea.

Soccer PlayersBut what does “specializing” actually mean?

A few parents have posed this question to Active for Life, so it’s worth clarifying some of the nuances around this tricky topic.

In a nutshell, specialization means doing one activity to the total exclusion of all other activities. And in the context that most people use the word around kids’ sports, it’s generally assumed that we mean from a very young age—perhaps as young as 5, 6, or 7 years old. This is not necessarily the same as doing a lot of one activity throughout the calendar year.

What’s the difference?
In Canadian youth sports, we most commonly hear concerns about premature specialization in sports such as hockey and soccer. If there is any suggestion that a kid has any degree of talent, the parents fork out the extra bucks and put their child in spring hockey and summer hockey, or extra soccer training during the off-season.

Now the child is playing one sport for 10-12 months. They are playing a lot of that sport.

But they are not necessarily specializing in that sport.

If they are doing other sports and activities at the same time, then they might actually be getting a good balance of activities, and they are not necessarily specializing. The danger now simply becomes the risk of injury and burnout due to overtraining; the body, mind, and emotions simply become exhausted with no opportunity to rest and recharge.

So what should a parent do?
Here’s the nub of it–and here I am talking about kids prior to high school age.

If your child truly wants to play spring hockey, or attend the soccer or dance academy for extra training, that can be a good thing. But it needs to be driven by your child—not you. And even when it is driven by your pre-teen child, you should step back and ask a couple of questions.

Does my child want to do this because she really wants more? Or does she feel coerced by pressure from coaches or peers?
If my child does this, will he still have time and energy for other physical activities?
If my child does this, what are the chances that she will start to hate this activity?
If my child does this, is he likely to develop overuse injuries to knees, elbows, muscles, ligaments, and the rest?
How might my child be better served by taking a break from this activity to focus on something else?
As always, superstar professional basketball player Steve Nash is one of the best examples of a kid who didn’t specialize too early. In fact, he didn’t ever start playing basketball until age 12. He played tons of basketball once he went to high school, probably 10-12 months per year if you count all of the hours that he spent playing ratball on weekends and after school with friends.

Was he specializing in basketball? In one sense, yes. Yet he was still playing a couple of other sports on the side. In fact, he didn’t really start specializing in basketball until at least age 14, and it was all driven by him.

Sport Sampling and Physical Literacy
Prior to high school, Steve Nash was a poster child for physical literacy and “sport sampling” instead of specialization. His parents made sure that he played a wide variety of sports and activities as a child, and as consequence, he developed broad athleticism and a fundamental love of being active. He became engaged in sport and activity. He kept playing because he had grown to love it.Baseball P

Parents often imagine that their child can become a superstar if they specialize early. But it’s a crapshoot at best. Read this book review on the role of genetics in sports to learn why.

As a growing body of research shows, apart from activities such as gymnastics and perhaps figure skating, it’s the multi-sport athletes who generally come out on top.

And if someone tries to tell you that your 7-year-old is a natural born and needs more specialized coaching and training, look at them with suspicion. Most often they’re coaches with private academies who are looking for a paycheck, or they are trying to cherry pick a U12 dream team so they can win the Upper Wabash Falls District Championship and show the trophy to their poker buddies.

Rather than pushing your child to specialize early, concern yourself with making sure that your child engages with sport and activity early. Make sure that they play many different sports and activities before they enter their teens, make sure that much if not most of their play is unstructured, and make sure that they learn to love sport and activity because they are having fun experiences that they “own”.

Then see where it takes them. Because if your child specializes too early in one sport and starts to hate it, or gets injured, you’re not doing them any favors—and you’re not enhancing their chances of turning pro.

Jim Grove is a contributing editor with Active for Life, a nonprofit organization committed to helping parents raise happy, healthy, physically literate kids. For more articles like this one, please visit ActiveforLife.com.

by Jim Grove | Feb 9, 2016 | Category: General Sports, Sports Parents, Science Research

Preventing Overuse Injuries | preventing overuse injuries

Over the past 20 years more children are partici­pating in organized and recreational athletics. With so many young athletes playing sports, it’s no wonder injuries are common. Half of all sports medicine injuries in children and teens are from overuse. The following is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics about overuse injuries and injury prevention tips.

What is an overuse injury?
An overuse injury is damage to a bone, muscle, ligament, or tendon due to repetitive stress without allowing time for the body to heal. Shin splints are an example of an overuse injury.

The following are the 4 stages of overuse injuries:

Pain in the affected area after physical activity
Pain during physical activity, not restricting performance
Pain during physical activity, restricting performance
Chronic, persistent pain even at rest
Who is at risk?
Children and teens are at increased risk for overuse injuries because growing bones are less resilient to stress. Also, young athletes may not know that certain symptoms are signs of overuse (for example, worsening shoulder pain in swimmers). If you think your child has an overuse injury, talk with your child’s doctor. A treatment plan may include making changes in how often and when the athlete plays, controlling pain, and physical therapy.

How to prevent overuse injuries
Athletes should stay away from excessive training programs that could be harmful. The following are guidelines to help prevent overuse injuries by promoting a healthy balance of activities.

Prepare
Athletes should have a preparticipation physical evaluation (PPE) to make sure they are ready to safely begin the sport. The best time for a PPE is about 4 to 6 weeks before the beginning of the season. Athletes also should see their doctors for regular health well­ child checkups.

Athletes should maintain a good fitness level during the season and off­season. Preseason training should allow time for general conditioning and sport­specific conditioning. Also important are proper warm­up and cool­down exercises.

Play smart
Athletes should avoid specializing in one sport before they reach puberty. Child “superstars” are often injured or burned out prior to college. Children should be encouraged to try a variety of sports.

Participation in a particular sport should be limited to 5 days per week.

Athletes should sign up for one team and one sport per season.

Rest up
Athletes should take at least 1 day off per week from organized activity to recover physically and mentally.

Athletes should take a combined 2 to 3 months off per year from a specific sport (may be divided throughout the year [that is, 1 out of every 6 months off ]).

Training
Increases in weekly training time, mileage, or repetitions should be no more than 10% per week. For example, if running 10 miles this week, increase to 11 miles the next week.

Cross­train. Athletes should vary their endurance workouts to include multiple different activities like swimming, biking, or elliptical trainers.

Perform sport­specific drills in different ways. For example, running in a swimming pool instead of only running on the road.

How to prevent burnout
Burnout (overtraining syndrome) includes mental, physical, and hormonal changes that can affect performance. To help prevent burnout in your child, follow the guidelines in this handout. Other suggestions include

Keep your child’s practice fun and age­appropriate.

Focus on your child’s overall wellness, and teach them how to listen for problems with their bodies.

Remember
Parents: Your goal should be to promote a well­rounded athlete who can enjoy regular physical activity for a lifetime.

Last Updated 11/21/2015
Source Care of the Young Athlete Patient Education Handouts (Copyright © 2011 American Academy of Pediatrics)

Tips & Tricks for Preparing Your Kids for Summer Camp | Preparing kids for summer camp

Sending your kids to summer camp can be stressful and worrisome (usually more for the parents than the campers). The best thing you can do is assure yourself that your child has everything they need to have a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable camp session. We created some tips and tricks to help you prepare!

The most important thing to do is make sure you plan ahead. Don’t leave your preparation to the weekend before camp starts. Last-minute planning and packing is never a good idea. Trust me. You’re almost guaranteed to forget something. Capture-124

Every camp has its own regulations: camp rules, expected clothing, and even communication with parents vary from camp to camp. Ensure that you’ve read all the documents and checklists our camp sends you so that you comply with their rules. Go over these with your camper so they’re aware of the rules they’ll have to follow ahead of time.

LABEL EVERYTHING! It’s imperative to ID your campers belongings so they don’t end up lost or in another camper’s trunk. Kids are infamous for losing things in their rooms. Now imagine hundreds of kids in camps and tents in the woods. Having your campers name or initials on everything from socks to sunscreen will help your camper come back with (almost) everything he or she left with.

Break in any new shoes/sandals or equipment that will be used during camp. Nothing puts a damper on activities like blisters and sore feet.

Sending letters comforts you and your camper. If the camp permits letters from parents, send yours a day or so before camp starts so your camper will receive it mid-week.

Slip an encouraging note or surprise item in your camper’s luggage for them to find while they’re unpacking. Here are some ideas: a picture, some candy to share (remember to check camp regulations), a book or a magazine.

SUNSCREEN, SUNSCREEN & SUNSCREEN. You can never be too careful when it comes to sun protection. A bad sunburn can put your camper out of commission for a couple days. If your camp offers water activities like boating or swimming, then your child should be applying sunscreen multiple times a day. It’s recommended to purchase a waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

If your camper requires any medication, ensure that you pack enough for the duration of camp. It’s better to hand any medication (along with a note indicating dosage and administration) directly to the camp director or your child’s camp counsellor. If your camp uses a camp management software then they most likely know of any medical needs ahead of time but it doesn’t hurt to be overly cautious.

Try some camp activities ahead of time. If you know what activities your camp offers, try some of them with your child ahead of time. If your camper has any fears or apprehensions, you’ll be able to work through them and build their confidence before camp starts. This also gives you a chance to advise the camp director or counsellor so they can be sensitive to your child’s fears and hesitations.

Give your camper camp chores. Most camps require campers to make theirs beds, pick up after themselves, and take responsibility for their personal hygiene. Foster independence ahead of time to ensure your camper is accustomed to doing the chores they’ll be responsible for at camp.

by Ashley Wood

5 Ways Camps are Creating Self Determined Environments

The number one trend in camps this year is creating self-determined environments. The Theory of Self Determination developed by Richard Ryan and Edward Deci, states that people are intrinsically motivated if their three psychological needs are met, those psychological needs are the need for autonomy, connection, and competence. Bob Ditter, a clinical social worker and long time summer camp expert, says the most successful and impactful camps meet campers psychological needs. Jack and I became obsessed with the idea that summer camp could unlock kids’ intrinsic motivation and lead them to believe that they can do, make, and be whatever they want in their lives. As we traveled around the country for 2 years searching for camps and collecting best practices in the industry, we took special note of the camps that went above and beyond to create Self-Determined environments.

camps
1, Trust and Choice
Boston Explorers is a program created and run by Alphonse Litz and Bob Ditter. Alphonse and Bob provide campers with the ability to choose and structure their own day and make their own decisions. This kind of trust and autonomy are rare in camping environments and much rarer in city day camps. Every morning at Boston Explorers, campers have a chance to make something with their hands in a wood shop. Campers choose what to make and, through the process of making, develop competence and confidence. Kids can choose to make anything including the wooden swords which many boys love, Bob is sure to let you know.

2. Specific Environments and Loose parts
At camps such as YMCA Camp Kitaki, they have brought Self-Determination into the fold by creating environments that allow for self-directed play. Fort Pawnee, for example, is an impressive play area complete with a stockade fence and scaleable turrets. Located inside its walls are different areas filled with loose parts: there is a stage with costumes for dress up, a pile of tree rounds to for building structures, logs to jump off, and pots and pans to make messy mudpies. Last summer, Kitaki added a music playground. This space is filed with outdoor xylophones, drums, and other noise makers. The magic of these spaces is not the cool new stuff, but the time that is structured into the schedule that allows kids to encounter these spaces and engage in self-directed play and learning. Jason Smith, Kitaki’s executive director, says that the music playground is often quiet until one brave camper begins to make their own music. When one camper leads the music-making, he says, others quickly follow and, before long, an outdoor orchestra can be heard throughout camp. Check out YMCA Camp Kitaki.

3. Makerspaces
Parts and Crafts is a community resource for homeschooling families, it is also a makerspace, an after school program, and a day camp during the summer. The space is filled with tools like a 3D printer, a full wood-shop, sodding irons, and computers. They also have every kind of craft supply and loose part you can imagine. Kids can choose from a structured activity or engage in their own self-directed project. Staff are ready and roaring to provide resources and advice. When Jack and I visited, there were kids learning the computer language Python while others played boardgames on the floor. Katie, one of the founders, was telling us that when you trust kids to find what makes them happy, the learning process follows. We definitely met some happy kids who were totally in their element. Makerspaces at camps look different across the country, some with great tools and others with simpler arts and crafts supplies. The magic of these environments is that the campers are the masters of the domain and they direct what and how their creations will be built. In a makerspace, the process not the product counts. Find out more about Parts and Crafts.

4. Night games
Many camps we visited played incredibly immersive night games. Camp Widjiwagen in Tennessee prides itself on creating whole new worlds based on popular books or movies for campers to step into. At Camp Augusta in Northern California, they create real camp magic from the night games that they create for their campers. These kinds of Night Games successfully create self-determined environments because they allow campers to play as an individual traveling though the game independent of a team. Each camper becomes the main character of their own adventure. This allows campers to associate with who they want to be around, what they want to interact with, and how engaged in the game they want to be. This summer at Vanderkamp with James Davis, we took a crack at creating these types of games. it was a huge success. Find out more at Go Camp Pro.

5. Creating a place for kids to call their own. Stomping Ground.
Jack and I have been so fortunate to meet so many inspiring people pushing the camp industry forward and trying to create the best environments for kids to be themselves. This summer, we have decided to combine everything we learned and test it out in a one-week residential camp. We are excited to be partnering with Scott Arizalla, Sylvia Van Meertan, and James Davis to create a self-determined environment for kids. Our unique approach is that we are taking away any presumption that we know what is best for any kid. We want to trust kids to make decisions that will lead them to discover just what makes them happy. We want to provide them with a safe and loving environment where we say yes to their whim and help them to test out their ideas. Self-determined environments offer campers and participants the opportunity to feel connected to a community, competent in their actions and thoughts, and the freedom to encourage kids to make their own decisions. As we embark on this new project, we hope to share our findings with the industry and to continue improving how to best serve kids in our communities. More about Stomping Ground.

by Laura Kriegel