SportsEvents Magazine

AUG 2016

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August 2016 20 Special Feature: SPECIALIZATION IN YOUTH SPORTS "I think there is pressure from the coaches, especially the travel ball, private coaches, telling kids you have to work on this every day, every week," Fryer said. "That causes kids not to do the three-sport thing. The coach says sure you can play another sport, but if you want to start, Johnny over there is going to be here every day, so that's up to you." In addition to driving the average kids away from sports much too soon, specialization has an impact on an athlete's body. A one-year observational study by the University of Wisconsin (UW) titled "Prevalence of Sport Specialization in High School Athletics" and published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that athletes in the high-specialization group were more likely to report a history of overuse knee injuries compared with moderate- or low- specialization athletes. Athletes who trained in one sport for more than eight months out of the year were more likely to report a history of knee injuries, overuse knee injuries and hip injuries. "Sport specialization is a hot topic in sports medicine, yet there is a severe lack of empirical data that exists about the topic," said UW's David Bell, who co-authored the study and is an assistant professor with the Department of Kinesiology's Athletic Training Program and the director of the Wisconsin Injury in Sport Laboratory (WISL). "Physicians are way ahead of the research in this area and, anecdotally, they report that they are seeing more kids in their clinics that have injuries that used to be only found in older athletes." Overuse Injuries An eye-popping example of that is shoulder surgery known as Tommy John surgery — named after the Major League Baseball pitcher who was the first to have it decades ago — in which a shoulder ligament is replaced by a tendon taken from another part of the body. A study published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine revealed that nearly 57 percent of the Tommy John surgeries in the U.S. were being performed on 15- to 19-year-olds. As a result, The National Federation of State High School Sports Associations recently changed its rules governing high school pitchers to determine the amount of rest mandated based on the number of pitches thrown, not the number of innings pitched. Each state must set pitch-count levels. Researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center report that girls are at a much higher risk than boys for overuse injuries, which occur when athletes are required to perform the same motion repeatedly. These injuries include stress fractures, tendonitis and joint pain. Their study was published in April in the Journal of Pediatrics. Dr. Thomas Best analyzed 3,000 male and female injury cases over a seven-year period across 20 high school sports such as soccer, volleyball, gymnastics and lacrosse. "These young people spend more time playing sports both in competition and in practice," Best said. "So, there's a correlation there between the amount of time that they're playing and the increased incidence of injuries." Overuse injuries account for half of all athletic injuries and are known to be more prevalent in children ages 13 to 17, the report said. That doesn't surprise Kalei Oliver, who continued with tennis because of the mental and physical benefits for her body. "[Tennis] also helped me get in shape by working the other muscles that softball didn't," Oliver said. "I started to notice that during [softball] conditioning I would always Estimated Probability Of Competing In College Athletics Sources: High school figures from the 2014-15 High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations. College numbers from the NCAA 2014-15 Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates Report.

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