Overuse injuries are often blamed on increasing specialization at young age, with children (or their parents) choosing to master one sport rather than a variety of activities. But a new study suggests that specialization, and its accompanying risk of sports injuries, may be a bigger concern among wealthier families, according to a press release from Loyola University.
The study suggests that rates of overuse injuries are 68% higher among athletes whose families can afford private insurance, compared to athletes receiving public health insurance (Medicaid). Athletes with private insurance are also twice as likely to be specialize in one sport.
Specialization comes at a cost—both financially and physically. Focusing on one sport can rack up thousands of dollars in fees, private lessons, equipment, and transportation, pointed out Neeru Jayanthi, MD, who presented the research at the International Olympic Committee World Conference on Prevention of Injury & Illness in Sport in Monaco. Specialization is a likely culprit of lower back injuries, stress fractures, tennis elbow, and ligament injuries.
The study included 1,900 athletes with a median family income of $70,000. Around 19% of participants were receiving public aide and 11% were from low-income neighborhoods. The athletes were asked to respond to survey questions about degrees of specialization, competitive sports, and training volume.
On average, both lower and higher-income athletes participated in around 10 hours per week of organized sports. However the publicly-insured athletes spent more of that time engaged in free play, i.e. performing unstructured sports activities like pick-up basketball and touch football. The researchers suggested that this could mean that unstructured free play could have a protective effect for preventing overuse injuries.
Other tips for preventing overuse injuries in sports include:
- Chose different sports to rotate between depending on the season.
- Avoid specializing in one sport before adolescence.
- Take at least three months off of playing a sport competitively to give your child time to recuperate.
- Take a break from sports training at least once per week.
- Increase unstructured playing time in relation to structure playing time.
- Don’t spend more hours a week playing sports than your age (e.g. a 12-year old should not spend over 12 hours per week on sports).
Many chiropractors are trained in sports medicine and pediatric health, and are well-accustomed to helping children and teenagers prevent sports injuries.
Loyola University Health System. (2014, April 11). Young athletes from higher income families more likely to suffer serious overuse injuries. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 14, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140411091317.htm