Over the past decade, we have seen a significant increase in the rate of sports-related overuse injuries among children ages 12 and under. In fact, the number of ACL surgeries in girls 12 and under has increased by an astounding 140% from 2009 to 2018, according to a survey by the Children’s Hospital Association.
So, what’s to blame for this increase in overuse injuries among younger and younger kids? And what can be done to prevent it?
The Demands Placed on Children for Competitive Sports Continue to Grow
More and more kids – and at younger ages – are playing only one sport all-year-round without a break. The demands of these kinds of competitive activities continue to increase, as well. It is now commonplace for kids to practice six or even seven days a week, for several hours at a time. Focusing on one sports activity can lead to burnout and increased risk of injury due to the amount of stress placed on the body. Young athletes are still developing physically, and the repetitive activity of a single sport doesn’t allow time for the body to rest and recover.
What You Can Do to Help Decrease the Risk of Childhood Sports-Related Overuse Injuries
The bottom line is that kids need a break from sports and other physical activities throughout the year, and practice time can be guided based on their age.
Some experts recommend that children only play as many hours per week as their age. For example, an eight-year-old should play or practice no more than 8 hours each week. Kids should also have a break from playing the same sport and be encouraged to play a variety of sports.
The early sports specialization debate will continue between parents, coaches and athletes. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recently launched a public service campaign with the American Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Association called OneSport™ to provide education on overuse sports injuries and the potential dangers of sports specialization.
When to See a Doctor for a Sports-Related Overuse Injury
If your child suffers an injury while playing sports, the R.I.C.E. method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) can help reduce pain and swelling. If the pain and swelling persist or there is any numbness, tenderness or limited range of motion, contact our team of sports medicine specialists for an evaluation. Visit Texas Orthopedics After Hours Clinic for same day appointments and after hours care, or schedule an appointment online.