There’s a fantastic, deeply disturbing article by Mark Hyman, author of “Until It Hurts: America’s Obsession with Youth Sports and How It Harms Our Kids,” in this week’s Sports Illustrated Magazine, which hit newstands this morning. A disturbing and escalating number of youth sports injuries, says Hyman, are caused by athletics-obsessed parents who push their children too hard, causing chronic overuse injuries that can impact not just their children’s prowess on the court and in the field, but their growth plates and physical development.
How bad is it? Hyman says Lyle Micheli, a Children’s Hospital Boston doctor and co-founder of the nation’s first youth sports medicine clinic 35 years ago, no longer makes small talk with the thousands of Little Leaguers, future Olympians and everyday young athletes he meets each year. He just asks them where it hurts. Back in the early days of his Boston clinic, sports injuries stemmed from gridiron pileups or ill-advised slides into second base. Even as recently as the 1990s, only 20% of young athletes’ injuries stemmed from repetitive stress and chronic over-use. Now, it’s 75%.
“They’ve trained—and overtrained—in their sports,” writes Hyman, “until their bodies just can’t take it anymore.”
The rest of the story provides a chilling portrait of what we, as parents, are doing to our kids. Most of these injuries are entirely preventable, says Hyman, “by introducing variety, moderation and rest into an everyday sports routine… The problem doesn’t lie with the kids, though; it lies with the adults—the great enablers. Where they go, lugging their runaway sports ambitions for their children, overuse injuries inevitably follow.”
“Not me,” you say? Is your kid playing year-round soccer, baseball or another sport? Swimming butterfly every month of the year? Are you building your vacation around the availability of workout pools or the summer baseball schedule for the league that follows spring season and precedes fall ball? You need to read this. Really.