Is your child athlete playing only one youth sport, and if so, is he or she doing it year-round, with little or no monitoring about over using certain muscles?
Research shows this kind of sports specialization is harming your younger children, and greatly outweighs any benefit he or she might derive from laser-like focus on one sport.
The Emory Sports Medicine Center, a leader in advanced treatments for patients with orthopaedic and sports-related injuries, has been on the cutting edge of that research.
Dr. Neeru Jayanthi, M.D., of the Emory Sports Medicine Center, is a leading expert on youth sports health and is an ardent believer in kids playing organized sports. However, he believes even stronger in a simpler plan: Kids need to play. Period. Not play soccer, per se. Or baseball. Or even tennis, which is his specialty. But just play and play multiple sports.
While Jayanthi, is not at all urging parents to steer their children away from organized teams sports, his nationally acclaimed study on youth sport injuries show playing is more important to the child than playing a sport, and that once sports become the primary way a child plays, parents should monitor the number of hours the child spends on any one sport.
“With travel leagues and kid playing one sport 10 to 12 months a year, we’re seeing more over-use injuries than we would have a generation ago,” Dr. Jayanthi said. “Everyone wants the best for their child, but the best is never to let them spend hours a day, every day, doing the same activity.”
In America, particularly in warmer weather states, baseball is probably where there is more specialization, year-round focus and over-use injuries. It has gotten so bad, particularly with pitchers, that USA Baseball and Major League Baseball have teamed up to promote an educational program that urges restraint.
“When baseball is telling young baseball players to take it easy, it helps validate what we are saying,” Dr. Jayanthi said.
Dr. Jayanthi and colleagues researched 1,200 young athletes and found that kids should not spend more hours per week than his or her age playing sports. Younger children are developmentally immature and are less able to tolerate physical stress. Also, the study suggests that kids should not spend more than twice as much time playing organized sports as they do in unorganized free play.
“I love organized sports and love to see athlete’s at their best,” he said. “And that takes a lot of hard work and dedication. I get that. I believe in it. But the two concepts are not mutually exclusive to each other. In fact, I believe they go hand in hand. Want what’s best for your child, both developmentally and athletically? Follow these guidelines.”
Dr. Jayanthi leads Emory’s Tennis Medicine program and is considered one of the country’s leading experts on youth sports health, injuries, and sports training patterns, as well as an international leader in tennis medicine. He is currently the President of the International Society for Tennis Medicine and Science (STMS) and a certified USPTA teaching professional.
About Emory Sports Medicine Center
At the Emory Sports Medicine Center, our experts specialize in advanced procedures to treat and repair a wide range of sports related injuries. Recently recognized as one of the nation’s TOP 50 orthopaedics programs, Emory Orthopaedics, Sports and Spine has 6 convenient locations across metro Atlanta, as well as 6 physical therapy locations. To make an appointment to see one of our Emory sports medicine specialists, please call 404-778-3350 or complete our online appointment request form.
About Dr. Jayanthi
Dr. Jayanthi leads Emory’s Tennis Medicine program and is considered one of the country’s leading experts on youth sports health, injuries, and sports training patterns, as well as an international leader in tennis medicine. He is currently the President of the International Society for Tennis Medicine and Science (STMS) and a certified USPTA teaching professional. He has also been a volunteer ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) physician for 15 years, serves as a medical advisor for the WTA (Woman’s Tennis Association) Player Development Panel, and is on the commission for the International Tennis Performance Association (ITPA). He has been selected to the board of directors for the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) twice, and serves as a Consultant for the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, Aspen Institute Sport and Society Program, and Mom’s Team. Dr. Jayanthi has won multiple AMSSM Foundation Research Grants for his collaborative research on early sports specialized training and overuse injury in young athletes. He previously was the medical director of primary care sports medicine at Loyola University Chicago for 12 years where he was voted a “Top Doctor” in the Chicagoland Suburbs prior to being recruited to Emory.