There is no denying the benefits of youth sports. Youth are given the opportunity to build character, learn how to work as a team, learn how to lead others, listen to instruction, manage their time and set goals for themselves, and of course, spend hours being active and exercising. However, there may be some negative effects from overuse and burnout at such a young age.
While sports are a great use of time and a growing experience for youth, just like many good things, it is possible to do too much. A study from the Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine at The London School of Medicine and Dentistry shows that there are multiple long-term health dangers from overuse in youth sports, especially those youth that suffer bone, joint and spine injuries while playing.
If a young athlete suffers an ACL or meniscus tear during, they will generally have a quicker recovery time than a mature athlete. However, unlike a mature athlete, a young athlete’s growth may be stunted, or they may be at a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis as they age, according to the same study.
Also, according to various studies, even in youth athletes that do not suffer a serious injury like an ACL or meniscus tear, there may be a greater risk for developing spine pathologies and back pain later on in life, especially if their sport of choice involves heavy lifting or harsh contact.
So does this mean we need to stop our youth from playing their favorite sports? Of course not, although if a child does suffer a serious injury in a high-contact sport, it may be worth considering trying a different sport if re-injury is a serious concern.
A great way to diminish risk is to make sure youth athletes have an off-season. Even the professionals take plenty of time off. Also, consider adding a non-contact sport into the rotation if season, if the young athlete is a multi-sport competitor.
Always make sure youth are paying attention to their bodies and their aches and pains, just like an adult athlete would. Sports are great tools for building character and life-long fitness, but there are risks that we should be aware of, risks such as overuse and re-injury.