The company I work for, Physiquality, has made it one of their missions to provide wellness and fitness activities for kids. And this topic has been increasingly popular over the last few years.

That said, this is a personal topic for me. As I mentioned in my last post, my injuries are directly related to the quantity of dance I did as a child and adolescent. My first surgery at 16 was caused by dancing 12 hours a week on a poorly aligned knee. A lack of cross-training and exercise outside of my dancing probably contributed to both my misalignment (dancers have notoriously weird alignments; my knees point straight forward when my feet are turned out in first position) and overuse. By the time the surgeon intervened, my cartilage was already shredded underneath my kneecap. I knew there would be further surgeries down the road.

Would I have followed the advice of these experts? And would it have made a difference? I don’t know. But certainly heeding their advice may have slowed down my problems and perhaps given me more time before my inevitable time under the knife.

Preventing youth overuse injuries

In recent years, a disturbing trend has been seen among younger athletes: Overuse injuries are becoming far more common.

Baseball in particular has been under intense scrutiny. A study of 481 youth pitchers between the ages of 9 and 14, published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine (subscription required) in February 2011, noted that 5% of the athletes suffered such a serious injury in the course of the study that they needed surgery, or, even worse, had to retire.

And in an article for the Los Angeles Times in 2008, Dr. E. Lyle Cain noted that at the turn of the millennium, younger athletes (mostly baseball players) were getting the Tommy John procedure, or reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament, at a much higher rate. Only about 12% of Tommy John cases were for patients under the age of 18 between 1991 and 1996; the number of cases had jumped to 30% by 2005.

But it’s not just baseball that’s at the root of the problem. Whether due to increased competition, the hope for college scholarships, or overambitious parents, many children and teens are specializing in sports at younger ages and playing much more than previous generations.

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