Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

My My Hey Hey…

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…young jocks might not be able to play.

The NCAA muckety-mucks are being told at their annual convention this week that they should worry about the long-term health effects of children specializing in a single sports at such early ages. Long-term health effects such as athletes who are broken-down by the time they play NCAA sports, if they even get that far. Apparently, research proves that it is not better to burn out than to fade away.

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

“The NCAA should be concerned about what’s happening in youth sports,” said Daniel Gould, director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University, who does research on burnout in athletes. An increasing focus on year-round training in only one sport can hasten burnout and injury among young athletes, Mr. Gould and other experts said.

Three-quarters of the one million sport-related injuries that happen each year are in athletes younger than 15 years old, Ronald F. Zernicke, an orthopedic expert who is director of the Bone & Joint Injury Prevention & Rehabilitation Center at the University of Michigan, told NCAA members. And 30 percent to 50 percent of all athletics injuries among youths are from overuse, he said.

At this rate, Mr. Gould added, by the time athletes reach college-level competition, “they’ve got a lot of mileage — what’s happening at the lower levels is very important.”

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Pictured above, a 13-year-old club soccer player.

As I recall, we Americans used to laugh or shake our heads at the Soviet bloc model of the toddler plucked from home at any early age to go to a “sports academy” and develop into a comically drugged-up, robotic athlete who was shoved aside for a younger, more comically drugged-up, robotic athlete the moment he or she was no longer of use. Apparently, I recalled wrong. Well, some of us laughed and shooked our heads. Others must have obsessed over what a damn great idea it was.

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