Youth Sports Concerns

by Tom Seman MD FAAP March 27th, 2013 | Pediatrician on Call
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sadMy husband insists that our 13 year-old daughter practice pitching for softball year round.  I am concerned. Should I be?

Part of any healthy lifestyle is staying active throughout the week and the year. Children often take this to the far limits due to their passion for the sport, their desire to be the best, and a bit of obsessive behavior related to their development to want to master their bodies. What children and often their parents do not understand, is that even the best players in the world give their bodies rest to recover and practice other activities so as not to strain their muscles, joints or bones.

Professional players train with weights and are carefully monitored by physicians, nutritionists and physical therapists to make sure that they are not straining their muscles or joints and are performing with excellent form. They are given breaks during the playing season, and they take part of the year off to fully recover before starting training again. Most coaches do not have he training to perform the function of nutritionist, coach, physical therapist, and interval and strengthtrainer.

A child should not perform a single activity throughout the whole year without periods of rest. If a child plays sports, then she should play a different sport at least for part of the year. A professional player will do strength training at least 2-3 x/week. If a child is to focus on a single sport, when she gets older, then she should get help from a trainer to helps strengthen the muscle complexes necessary to stabilize the joints being strained when used for that sport. Furthermore, general activity and good nutrition are also very important.

Always consult with the child’spediatrician to make sure that the child is developed enough for the desired sport.Certain activities can irreparably injure a child’s bones, muscles, or joints. We often hear about boys who pitch curve balls and similar pitches prior to completing puberty and how this ruins their elbows. For this reason, counting pitches was implemented to make sure that this does not happen anymore; however, again the coach must be aware of the different requirements and limits necessary based on the child’s age. So if there is a concern, sometimes you just have to give it a rest.

Warning signs of overuse and possible significant injury are joint and muscles that are sore for more than 24 hours after an activity, weakness or decreased flexibilityof the muscle groups, pain or swelling of the joint itself, or pain with decreasing use of the joint. Should any of these problems arise, the parent should contact the child’s pediatrician for an evaluation and possible referral to a sports medicine specialist, if available. Despite these warnings, go out and play. Be active, and enjoy the Spring.





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All health and medical information is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the medical advice or treatment of your healthcare professional.