Today, there is a significant problem in youth sports. Over the past 10 years, there has been a huge push towards early specialization for kids. It has been thought that if a child wants to one day compete at the highest levels, they should do nothing but play and train for the sport they are interested in. This idea of constant playing and training has started to lead younger and younger kids to extreme overuse injuries. With young professionals and college athletes we are seeing injuries that shouldn't show up for another 10-20 years, if not longer.
There has been a large increase in tendon and ligament ruptures in kids under 10 years of age. There is no reason to see these injuries until much later in an athletes life. The biggest reason is the amount of aggressive overtraining that we are starting at younger and younger ages. When kids are playing a sport or training for a sport 6-7 days per week for years, there are going to be long term complications from that. Many kids get to the college level or even beyond only to find that by the time they get there, their bodies are already starting to fail them. Especially in the NBA we see kids get drafted when they are 19 years old only to have a career altering injury in their first season.
Over the last few seasons, the amount of games missed due to injuries has been progressively setting new records. When year after year we continue seeing young athletes consistently injured we have to start to look at problems in training instead of blaming it on chance.
So how do we correct this trend? We have to combat sport specialization as early as possible. There is nothing wrong with playing several sports or even taking months off at a time from a main sport. Many current professionals grew up playing 2 or 3 sports and taking large chunks of time off of each sport. Every sport is hard on your body in its own way. Playing one sport year round and training for that sport is a surefire way to injure the same muscles/joints over and over again. Playing several sports and taking breaks in between forces your body to use different muscles, adapt differently, and gives different areas of your body rest while still keeping your activity level high.
Many professionals didn't start playing their main sport until they were over 10 years old, sometimes not until high school. Someone who picks up a sport at 14 or 15 has 10 years less "experience" as someone who started at 5, but also has 10 less years of wear and tear on their body. We have to try and find the balance between pursuing sport specific skill and preserving our bodies. Believe it or not, you can break someone down before they are even an adult to the point where they will never be able to compete at a high level. These days, a lot of athletes are significantly injured by the time they reach college.
Take a look at the following article and look at your own training schedule or the training schedule of your kids. There is no evidence to support sport specialization, but there are a large amount of potential negatives. It is time we start changing up how we look at youth sports and start trying to put kids in the best position to grow up both talented and healthy.