Overtraining in the Pediatric Athlete
Keep Your Young Athlete Safe From Overtraining
In the U.S., about 30 million children* and teenagers participate in organized sports. There are more than 3.5 million injuries** each year, causing loss of participation time. Approximately one-third of these injuries are sports-related**. But why?
Kids are now training and competing at earlier ages. It’s more common for kids to specialize in one single sport, rather than play a different sport each season. Early sport specialization is defined as training in one single sport for more than eight months out of the year. This schedule prevents kids from having a much needed “off-season.” This type of overtraining can often lead to chronic injuries due to the repetitive stress put on the bones and joints without sufficient time for recovery.
What Can We Do About It?
Realizing that some degree of sports specialization is necessary to attain elite-level skill, you should keep these things in mind:
- The rule of thumb: The total number of hours training per week should not exceed the child’s age. For example, if a child is 8 years old, they should not be training for more than eight hours/ week. This includes all practices and games.
- Find a balance. Yes, more training will enhance the body’s ability to adapt. But more training leads to more stress, which leads to fatigue. Too much stress and fatigue will ultimately lead to poor performance.
- Have adequate recovery time. Athletes require 8-10 hours of sleep, and a full rest day. And no, not a rest day where they play their other sport. Kids also need to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, which includes enough protein and carbohydrates to assist with recovery from training.
- Train correctly. Yes, athletes will improve skills through specific practice and drills, but they will improve their capacity to perform these skills through strength/resistance training. Kids should focus on power and strength training during the off-season, and moderate maintenance when in season.
Several Shriners Children’s locations specialize in pediatric sports medicine, including Shriners Children’s Philadelphia. Please request an appointment online or call 800-237-5055. We are here to help your athlete get back on the right track.
* Source: Safe Return to Sports and Prevention of Re-injury for Young Athletes - Course issued by the American Physical Therapy Association
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