It’s up to us as parents to ensure that our young athletes follow properly balanced preseason and in-season training and conditioning programs in order to proactively prevent injuries. Millions of us are guilty of contributing to the win-at-all-costs mind-set that’s dominated the child and youth sports landscape over the past decade, and our children are getting seriously hurt as a result. Let’s take a hard look at some startling statistics from StopSportsInjuries.org:
- High school athletes account for an estimated 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits, and 30,000 hospitalizations each year.
- More than 3.5 million kids under age fourteen receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year.
- Children ages five to fourteen account for nearly 40 percent of all sports-related injuries treated in hospitals. On average, the rate and severity of injury increases with a child’s age.
- Overuse injuries are responsible for nearly half of all sports injuries to middle and high school students.
- Although 62 percent of organized-sports-related injuries occur during practice, one-third of parents do not have their children take the same safety precautions at practice as they would during a game.
- Twenty percent of children ages eight to twelve and 45 percent of those ages thirteen to fourteen will have arm pain during a single youth baseball season.
- Injuries associated with participation in sports and recreational activities account for 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among children in the United States.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than half of all sports injuries in children are preventable.
- Among athletes ages five to fourteen, 28 percent of football players, 25 percent of baseball players, 22 percent of soccer players, 15 percent of basketball players, and 12 percent of softball players were injured while playing their respective sports.
- Since 2000 there has been a fivefold increase in the number of serious shoulder and elbow injuries among youth baseball and softball players.
- If we are harboring a secret hope that our son or daughter will become an elite athlete, we should heed this statistical wake-up call: While more than thirty-eight million kids play sports each year, just 2 percent of high school athletes in America will secure a sports scholarship to an NCAA school. And the chances your child-athlete will fulfill your Olympic dreams for them? Well, we all need to keep this in mind: A grand total of 529 athletes competed for the United States at the 2012 Olympics in London.
We want our children to fulfill their athletic potential and become the best they can be, but in pushing them too hard, and in an imbalanced manner, we run the risk of derailing their athletic aspirations. In some cases, it can result in permanent physical disabilities. That’s something no parent wants for his or her child. ♦
From Kim John Payne, Luis Fernando Llosa, & Scott Lancaster. Beyond Winnning: Smart Parenting in a Toxic Sports Environment (Lyons Press, Connecticut, 2013)