April 18, 2007
Koach Karl - I've been given permission to use excerpts from Regan McMahon's new book entitled, "Revolution In The Bleachers"…this is definitely a MUST READ for parents and youth sports coaches who are concerned with their youth athelets health. Here is Part 1…
Excerpted from REVOLUTION IN THE BLEACHERS by Regan McMahon. Published byarrangement with Gotham Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.Copyright (c) 2007 by Regan McMahon.
In March 2005, The San Francisco Chronicle Magazine published my article exploring how the over-the-top youth sports culture was affecting kids and families. Titled "How Much Is Too Much?" it generated tremendous reader response, and two months later I signed a deal with Gotham Books to investigate the issue on a national scale. The results of that research, conducted in the academic year 2005-2006, appear in my book, "Revolution in the Bleachers: How Parents Can Take Back Family Life in a World GoneCrazy Over Youth Sports."
In the book, I look at the way youth sports have changed in the past 20 years and how those changes have altered the nature of childhood in America and patterns of family life. Many households are putting demanding sports schedules above bonding rituals such as eating dinner together, taking family vacations, spending holidays with relatives and relaxing at home on weekends. Lots of kids are stressed out, and some are getting burned out. I wondered if, for this generation, success at sports was coming at too high a cost. And I came up with suggestions of how parents can bring balance back into their children's lives. One of the costs of the hypercompetitive sports life is physical injury, the subject of the following excerpt. Previously, kids played multiple sports seasonally and usually didn't specialize in one sport or get serious about team sports until middle school or high school. Now kids often play one sport all year long, which has caused a dramatic rise in overuse injuries.
One of the big consequences of the rise of elite travel teams and the trend toward specialization is that many young athletes are now playing virtually year-round, putting more stress on their growing bodies than anyone ever imagined. Once they're playing only one sport, they're using the same muscle groups exclusively, which causes repetitive stress or overuse injuries.
Dr. Ronald Kamm, director of Sport Psychiatry Associates, in Oakhurst,N.J., told me, "We enacted child labor laws 80 years ago to protect children from all this work. And now basically we're making play into work. And they're working as hard as they used to in the sweat shops, some of them. I'm concerned about it, it's out of hand and kids do need downtime and seasons off and multiple sports. There is the occasional prodigy who just loves the sport and is focused on it, maybe a Tara Lipinski or a Tiger Woods. But most kids do better with many sports. It protects them and they don't get overuse injuries as much and it keeps them from burning out."
Injury occurs when a tissue or structure, such as a tendon or bone, gets worn down by repetitious motion. With rest, the tissue can heal and engage in more work without further injury. But without rest, the body's inflammatory response kicks in, which ultimately causes damage.
"When it comes to preventing the overuse injuries, the simple thing to do is, instead of playing one sport year-round, they should be playing two or three sports," Dr. Robbie DaSilva, of Midlands Orthopaedics, in Columbia, S.C., told Joey Holleman of The State newspaper. "Then they don't strain the same joint year-round."
"Children are especially susceptible because their bones are still growing," Holleman wrote in an August 2005 article titled "Take Me Ouch to the Ballgame." "The growth plates at the ends of the bones are spongy, rather than the hard bones of adults. In general, bones stop growing in females around age 13 and males around 15. Until those ages, young athletes' bones need a break from repetition."
"The No. 1 risk factor is year-round playing of a sport," Dr. JamesAndrews, a nationally prominent orthopedic surgeon based in Birmingham, Ala., told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "It starts with minor injuries, and bythe time they are in high school, it turns up as a serious injury." He estimates he's treating four times as many overuse injuries as he did in 2000, including chipped bones, torn elbow ligaments, cracked kneecaps and lower back damage.
"We used to see these injuries in the 15- to 18-year-old range," Dr. Anthony Stans, pediatric orthopedic surgeon at the Mayo Clinic, inRochester, Minn., told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "Now we're seeing it in kids as young as 8 or 9."
Playing year-round baseball, or playing in multiple baseball leagues during a season, is particularly risky. Andrews, who is senior orthopedic consultant for the NFL's Washington Redskins and medical director of baseball's Tampa Bay Devil Rays, says that 10 years ago he did the so-called Tommy John surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in a pitcher's elbow (named after the first professional baseball player to have it done, in 1974) only on adults. In 2004, he did 51 of the surgeries on children, at a cost of about $8,000 each to the athletes' parents. "I shouldn't see any of those," he told People magazine in 2005. "It's completely preventable."