Make sure kids don't overdo it when playing sports

Make sure kids don't overdo it when playing sports

When it comes to playing sports, parents need to make sure their kids don't over-do it.

That's the advice today from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The doctors say too much of a good thing can be harmful.

We want our kids to exercise -- it's good for them in many ways. But pediatricians say kids who participate in both organized and recreational sports are more likely to get an overuse injury -- damage to their young bodies caused by too much training and not enough rest.

Friday was Emily Hurd's first day back on the soccer field. She was out with a dislocated ankle and torn ligaments.

"If you're playing seven days a week at a competitive level, you're gonna break down, just like any piece of equipment," says Peter Hattrup, a coach with the Crossfire Premier Soccer Club in Redmond.

Hattrup says the Washington State Youth Soccer Association made a good decision two weeks ago, when it decided to move the girl's season from the fall - when the high school soccer season begins - to the spring.

The overlap, he says, was taking a toll.

"We were seeing injuries resulting because they were tired," Hattrup says. "They weren't as sharp as they should have been."

There were also overuse injuries. Because the girls didn't get any time off,  "they'd just eventually break down a little from it."

Dr. Mark Dales, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Swedish Medical Center, says parents need to more aware of sports injuries caused by overtraining and overuse.

"When kids play on their own, they sort of stop and go and they kind of self-regulate," Dr. Dales told me. "If they're part of an organized sport, they're under the thumb of the coach, who is pushing them along; especially as you get into more of the select and premier leagues."

The American Academy of Pediatrics reminds parents that playing is supposed to be fun. Getting caught up in having a child make it to a professional level or the Olympics is unrealistic for most students, they say.  Less than 1% of high school athletes turn pro.

Here are the academy's recommendations for young athletes:

  • Limit training in one sport to no more than five days a week with at least one day off from any organized physical activity
  • Take two to three months off each year to give their bodies time to heal and to work on strength training and conditioning to reduce the risk of future injuries.
  • Multi-sport athletes who use the same body parts for different sports especially need to take a break between seasons to avoid overuse injuries.
  • Weekly training time, number of repetitions, or total distance should not increase by more than 10 percent weekly
  • Focus of sports should be on fun, skill acquisition, safety and sportsmanship. Join only one team per season

More Information:

Avoiding Overuse Injuries and Burnout: Taking a Break is a Winning Move for Young Athletes

Overuse Injuries, Overtraining, and Burnout in Child and Adolescent Athletes