July is Youth Sports Month so let’s take a look at how kids can make the most of youth sports. The rate of injury in youth athletes is alarming to parents and that’s for good reason. How can we protect our kids from injury yet help them become the amazing athlete they aspire to be? The number one focus here should be on how much is too much?
The researchers at Loyola University Medical Center and Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago created a great rule of thumb that children should only practice for the number of hours equal to their age. For example, if your child is 12 years old, he or she should train for a maximum of 12 hours per week. This was established based on their study of 1,206 athletes, ages eight to 18, who were given physical examinations for sports injuries between 2010 and 2013. Of the 859 injuries documented, 564 were due to overuse, and 139 of these were serious. Undoubtedly, the majority of the 564 overuse injuries could have been prevented.
The above provides a guideline for how much training but that leads us to what kind of training is best. To sum it up, cross-training is the key to an athlete’s success. Cross-training could mean playing another sport or adding strength training to their program. There is a common misconception that we need to specialize from an early age. Specializing in one sport early on tends to lead to overuse injuries and burnout in the young athletes. A survey was done of Olympic athletes from 2000-2012 asking them how many sports they played at different stages in life. The results were astounding - almost all of the athletes surveyed played multiple sports until college. Playing multiple sports is great cross-training and can create a lifelong interest in sports and fitness.
In closing, keep introducing your kids to different sports. They may take to one sport early on but make sure you encourage them to test out others and create a cross-training regimen. Adults could take note of these ideas as well. Cross-training and avoiding over-training are key components to any athlete young or old.
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