Youth Sports: Risks vs. Rewards – Part 1

On Saturday, October 16th, the Vancouver Sun kicked off the first of a four-part series titled, Youth Sports: Risks vs. Rewards.

In the opening feature, Yvonne Zacharias looks at the rise and risks of sport specialization at a young age.

It’s a big issue for young athletes. Too much training and focus on a single sport can lead to overuse injuries. Whether it’s the goal of the young athlete to focus strictly on one sport or the idea of their parents, the repetitive motions and exercise of one sport can lead to muscle imbalance. That’s when the injuries can kick in, leading to fatigue and the potential for an athlete burning-out at a young age.

Zacharias catches up with former NHL star Ray Ferraro and gets his thoughts on multi-sport participation. She also connects with Zana Williams, a student-athlete who is battling through knee pain due to overuse.

SportMedBC members, Dr. Jack Taunton, Dr. Bob McCormack and physiotherapist Marc Rizzardo all have experience in dealing with young athletes who’ve suffered from various injuries. All three make some important and interesting comments about some of the different scenarios they’ve witnessed.

Taunton – “He, too, said there is no doubt doctors are seeing more overuse injuries in young athletes.

The very day he was interviewed, he had already seen a 13-year-old dancer with an Achilles problem and a 17-year-old basketball player with repetitive strain to the patellar tendon, commonly known as jumper’s knee.”

“Exercise is like an Aspirin,” said Taunton, the chief medical officer for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. “It can have tremendous benefits, but you can overdose on it.”

McCormack – “Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bob McCormack didn’t need the reports to tell him that overuse injuries are on the rise among young athletes. He sees evidence of it in his office in New Westminster.

“I see a lot of young up-and-coming athletes who unfortunately have been injured,” he said.

He blames the phenomenon on the increasing specialization and professionalization of amateur sport.”

Rizzardo – “Marc Rizzardo and others, however, suspect plenty of over-training is going on.

When Rizzardo was interviewed for this story, he’d just received an e-mail from a soccer player in the U.S. who was playing three times a day. His groin was breaking down. “I asked him to ask his coach to send me the recent literature that shows that training three times a day is better than twice a day.”

There’s also the question of balance. Multi-sport athletes tend to be injured less than their single-sport peers, Rizzardo said, because they use different muscles and different body balances.

“If all you do is kick a ball with your right foot a million times a year, you are going to have a body imbalance.”

It’s a fascinating, well-balanced report on an issue that affects many young athletes. For more, check out the full article.

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