Are student athletes being pushed too hard?
Even though Jersey high schools are developing more sophisticated training and nutrition programs for their student athletes all the time, a growing number of kids are still suffering serious injuries.
So what’s going on here?
According to Andrew P. Overman, the senior physical therapist at Hunterdon Sports and Physical Therapy, there’s been a tremendous increase in the incidence of overuse injuries over the past several years.
Overman said this is mostly because kids are focusing on one sport for the entire year, playing 11 to 11½ months out of the year, so they’re not getting enough down time.
“With these overuse injuries they’re not simply strain. For instance, in the elbow, kids as young as 11, 12, 13 years old, the incidence of Tommy John surgeries are becoming more prevalent. That’s something you only used to see in professional baseball players,” he said.
Overman said knee injuries such as the anterior cruciate ligament sprain (ACL) is being seen more frequently.
“The ACL injury is becoming a much more common injury for the soccer, the lacrosse, football athletes, the shoulder injuries we see much more in the overhead athlete, swimmers, baseball players, volleyball players," Overman said.
He says this problem is becoming more of an upfront issue, more people are aware of it, but unfortunately many parents are still pushing for kids to be stronger, faster and better than anybody else.
“Even when their son or daughter gets injured, the attitude is my kids have to be on the field more in order to get more playing time, in order to play division one sports, in order to potentially become a professional athlete,” he said.
Overman said when kids suffer serious injuries, parents, instead of focusing on the safety of their children, will frequently come in to a rehab session and ask “how soon can we get so and so back to the field because he or she has a tournament next weekend, or he or she is the best player on the team and they need him.”
He said over the past year or two we’ve seen a growing number of professional and college football coaches talking about how the best athletes they see are three-sport athletes, who did different sports as they were growing up.
“We are seeing more and more evidence that playing one sport year round does not necessarily make a kid better and more likely to succeed,” Overman said. "Kids who participate in different sports, using different muscles, are less likely to be injured because their bodies have developed in a much more comprehensive way.”
Overman believes parents and coaches should incorporate mandatory “down time” to give high school kids a break from the sport they’re focusing on.”
Overman will be one of the participants in a special Sports Injury town hall, on New Jersey 101.5 next Tuesday at 7 p.m.