STUDIO CITY (CBSLA) — When it comes to sports, all parents want their kids to give it their all and be the best they can be, but with youth sports now being more competitive than ever, some concerned parents are wondering, “How much is too much?”
Private coaches, travel teams and year-round play have all become par for the course for parents wanting their children to achieve the highest level of play, but while these can definitely be helpful in the short-term, they can also raise the possibility of injury from overuse in the long-run.
“From the foot to the shoulder, you can have overuse all the way up,” orthopedic surgeon Keith Feder MD told CBS2 News. He said that, in the last 30 years, injuries from overuse spiked, often in kids who play one sport or specialize at an early age.
“An adolescent 16 years or younger […] should only play a single sport eight, maximum nine months a year and then either rest, cross-train or play another sport,” said Feder.
Robert Boyd agrees.
“I said, ‘Look if you’re 18 and you can’t throw anymore, no one is gonna care what you did when you were 12,” said Boyd. His son Julian has always played multiple sports, something his father insisted on and has had to fight for, at times.
“Yes, absolutely,” said Boyd. “In fact, there was one travel team he was on, early on at about 9 years old, where they actually encouraged that he only play one sport, and I was adamant that he would not, and we were civil, but we parted ways.”
Julian is now a senior at St. John Bosco, where he plays both football and baseball. Unfortunately, he learned you can still get injured, even if you do everything right. He tore his ACL during a football game in September.
“I heard a pop, and that was it,” recalled Julian.
The most painful part of that injury was that he already had a baseball scholarship waiting for him.
“I was heartbroken,” said Julian. “I couldn’t function for a couple of days, especially with my senior year on the line for baseball.”
Now, Julian is recovering nicely and the University of Nevada is still honoring his baseball scholarship. Still, he told CBS2 he has no regrets.
“Not at all. Hearing you tore your ACL is devastating, but when I sit back and think, it was still a great decision,” said Julian.
Former major league pitcher Jeff Suppan spent 17 years in the big leagues and knows what it takes to get to the highest level of play, but he said he never played sports year-round as a kid and is in support of kids cross-training.
“I think that anytime you’re doing one thing repetitively over a long period of time […] without the proper rest, you’re gonna run into some issues,” warned Suppan.
Suppan is pitching in to this cause by helping out Westhills Baseball through the MLB’s Pitch Smart count system. The goal is to limit arm use and maximize rest.
“It’s really teaching managers how to manage according to pitch count, how to give them proper rest, but ultimately, it’s really the responsibility of the parent to keep track of the pitching,” said Suppan. “The best ability is availability. Who cares if you’re an all-star if you can’t play?”
Experts say children should never be encouraged to play through pain and never ignore persistent pain.