Baseball isn’t just a summer game anymore, especially here in Paradise. With camps, clinics, fall ball, off-season tournaments and the regular spring and summer seasons, players can work on their games year-round.
That’s not necessarily a good thing.
A few years ago, I attended a seminar at the Andrews Institute in Gulf Breeze at which Dr. James Andrews warned against an epidemic of overuse arm injuries, especially shoulder injuries, among youth baseball players. He said at the time that professional pitchers were suffering repetitive use injuries much earlier in their careers than they did even 10 years ago and placed the blame squarely on young players, especially pitchers, focusing solely on baseball rather than playing a variety of sports. (A lesser culprit is inattention to pitch counts.)
Andrews compared cartilage in the rotator cuff to tread on a tire: “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
An article posted at ScienceDaily.com on March 22, 2012, supported Andrews’ concern. The article quoted Amy Valasek, M.D., a pediatric sports medicine expert at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center who said she sees about 100 children per month with sports injuries, about half of which are caused by repetitive use.
"If the current trend continues, in 30 years we'll have a crop of adults with serious chronic injuries that require surgery and aggressive treatment," Valasek said.
The ScienceDaily.com article said Hopkins Children’s specialists believe the trend of such injuries in children “is fueled by a combination of factors, including more children specializing in one sport at a younger age, rigorous training regimens, resuming practice before an injury has healed completely and improper injury prevention.”
Specialists advise parents not to allow children to specialize in a single sport before age 14.
"The combination of repetitive use and skeletal immaturity puts these youngsters at high risk for injuries, some of them long-lasting, so it is really important that young children have whole-body conditioning and engage in a variety of athletic activities rather than one sport," Valasek said. "It's important to remember that the main reason to engage children in sports is not to turn them into professional athletes, but to condition the whole body in a healthy way and instill a sense of discipline, responsibility and team work."
Parents of young athletes, please do your own research and talk to your children’s doctors to determine their best regimen. Too many well-meaning parents believe they’re helping their children get a leg up on the competition, when actually they may be shortening whatever athletic career their children could have and possibly could be condemning them to much unnecessary pain in the future.
Have fun, play ball! But please, don’t overdo it.