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Thread: Hyperspecialization Is Ruining Youth Sports—And The Kids Who Play Them --

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    skating philosopher Mrs. P's Avatar
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    Hyperspecialization Is Ruining Youth Sports—And The Kids Who Play Them --

    http://www.propublica.org/article/hy...ailynewsletter

    Children are playing sports in too structured a manner too early in life on adult-size fields—i.e., too large for optimal skill development—and spending too much time in one sport. It can lead to serious injuries and, a growing body of sports science shows, a lesser ultimate level of athletic success.

    We should urge kids to avoid hyperspecialization and instead sample a variety of sports through at least age 12.

    Nearly a third of youth athletes in a three-year longitudinal study led by Neeru Jayanthi, director of primary care sports medicine at Loyola University in Chicago, were highly specialized—they had quit multiple sports in order to focus on one for more than eight months a year—and another third weren't far behind. Even controlling for age and the total number of weekly hours in sports, kids in the study who were highly specialized had a 36 percent increased risk of suffering a serious overuse injury. Dr. Jayanthi saw kids with stress fractures in their backs, arms or legs; damage to elbow ligaments; and cracks in the cartilage in their joints.

    Because families with greater financial resources were better able to facilitate the travel and private coaching that specialization requires, socioeconomic status turned up as a positive predictor of serious injury. Some young athletes now face surgeries befitting their grandparents. Young hockey goaltenders repeatedly practice butterfly style—which stresses the developing hip joint when the legs are splayed to block the bottom of the goal. The sports surgeon Marc Philippon, based in Vail, Colo., saw a 25-year-old goalie who already needed a hip replacement.

    The op-ed mainly focuses on soccer and other more typical youth sports, but it got me thinking of whether this is playing out in skating. Actually the skater who supports the author's assertion of the benefits of variety if Jason Brown.

    This article on Jason Brown published prior to Sochi references Brown's active involvement in a variety of youth sports: http://highlandpark.suntimes.com/201...-than-skating/

    What Brown hopes will be a career spanning three Olympic Games got its start when he was 3½. His mother and father, Marla and Steve Brown, signed him up for skating and many other sports through the Park District of Highland Park and other places around town.

    “I did all the school sports,” Brown said. “I was in travel soccer through eighth grade. I was in a baseball league in fifth grade. My parents gave me the opportunity to do what I wanted to do.”

    One of those things was going to camp at the Olin Sang Ruby Institute in Wisconsin each summer. Sports, though not skating, were part of the agenda there.

    But it was three weeks of camp when he was 13 that helped him concentrate on the sport that would take him to the world stage.

    Not long after his time at camp, his skating prowess began to grow and Brown was selected to represent the United States in an international competition in Canada.

    “I didn’t do well,” Brown said. “It was the first time I realized what it was going to take to be as good as I could be.”

    That year was his last summer of camp and the following school year was the end of travel soccer.
    Jason Brown, as we all know, has not had to deal with a lot of injuries, unlike his peer rivial, Joshua Farris.

    Also perhaps Charlie White is another example of the benefit of not getting too specialized. Maybe since he did Hockey and figure skating, the injuries were kept at bay. Besides an injury when he was 15 that ended one of their junior seasons early, he hasn't really suffered any major injuries.

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    I think this hypothesis makes a lot of sense. So interesting that more affluent kids are more likely to have these "advanced" injuries because their parents can afford to get them more intensive training and can travel to competitions earlier in life. (A rather odd application of the axiom that money can't buy happiness, I guess.)

    The hockey illustration (of the goalies overusing their hip joints) might explain something I read. I'm a big Kurt Russell fan, and I know that his son with Goldie Hawn, Wyatt Russell, was a talented goalie who devoted himself to hockey from his teens on. He played in amateur and pro leagues. Apparently Wyatt had to retire because of hip problems in his early twenties. Hmmmm.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Olympia View Post
    I think this hypothesis makes a lot of sense. So interesting that more affluent kids are more likely to have these "advanced" injuries because their parents can afford to get them more intensive training and can travel to competitions earlier in life. (A rather odd application of the axiom that money can't buy happiness, I guess.)
    I just have to wonder how psychologically and emotionally healthy it all is. An acquaintance from high school posted a picture of her son sleeping with his blanky in the car on the way home from a high stakes traveling team hockey tournament he played in. That sounds absurd I'm sure--hockey player snuggling his baby blanky...except that the kid was barely seven. Is all that pressure really even appropriate at that age?

    A former student of mine posted pictures from her son's "annual wrestling awards banquet". He was in kindergarten and it was his third year of wrestling. I can't imagine children as young as 3 or 4 or even 5 sitting still to have a team banquet. My cousin's son started that sport late--he was all of 8 years old. But now, he spends every weekend all winter at two day wrestling tournaments and has to "make weight". And his poor little sister has spent three years sitting in the stands all weekend instead of playing like a normal 3-6 yr old.

    I think organized teams and competitions are a bit out of control.

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    At the rink. Again. mskater93's Avatar
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    There are also the parents of skaters who home school or on line school their kids who are VERY far behind (1-2 grade levels or more) and their younger sibs who are forced to endure countless hours in the rink.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mskater93 View Post
    There are also the parents of skaters who home school or on line school their kids who are VERY far behind (1-2 grade levels or more) and their younger sibs who are forced to endure countless hours in the rink.
    Do you mean that sibs get stuck @ the rink while bro/sis practices so that the sibs can't do their own stuff? If so, sounds like countless hours of therapy in the making.

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    Most skaters I know at our rink do strength training in the gym, and stretching/dance/ballet. Most do conditioning and endurance training of some sort.

    What is interesting to me is that they say that wealthy people's kids get injured more. I would expect wealthy people to be the ones to be able to afford cross training. I think most people know you have to cross train. That was a big part of the Soviet sports system and why it was difficult for some other countries to keep up. I remember Gordeeva in her book said they did swimming, down hill skiing, jogging, ballet, weight lifting and who knows what else. Not many people would be able to pay for all that out of pocket :(. Even with cross training, injuries happen.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mrs. P View Post
    Jason Brown, as we all know, has not had to deal with a lot of injuries, unlike his peer rivial, Joshua Farris.

    Also perhaps Charlie White is another example of the benefit of not getting too specialized. Maybe since he did Hockey and figure skating, the injuries were kept at bay. Besides an injury when he was 15 that ended one of their junior seasons early, he hasn't really suffered any major injuries.
    The Jason/Joshua comparison is, to be fair, also skewed somewhat by the fact that Jason's coach is his second mother, but most of Joshua's injuries came while he was with Tom Z - though to add to the thread, the one he had at 14 was called osteochondritis dissecans and the internet is very firm in its classification as an overwork injury common in adolescent athletes.

    Max also has had few injuries other than the back, and he pulled double-duty until he was sixteen. So, maybe there is some merit.

    But what do you do if the kid doesn't want to do any other sport?

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    Spiral Lover tulosai's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pasdedeux View Post
    Most skaters I know at our rink do strength training in the gym, and stretching/dance/ballet. Most do conditioning and endurance training of some sort.

    What is interesting to me is that they say that wealthy people's kids get injured more. I would expect wealthy people to be the ones to be able to afford cross training. I think most people know you have to cross train. That was a big part of the Soviet sports system and why it was difficult for some other countries to keep up. I remember Gordeeva in her book said they did swimming, down hill skiing, jogging, ballet, weight lifting and who knows what else. Not many people would be able to pay for all that out of pocket :(. Even with cross training, injuries happen.
    In all honesty, I think a lot of wealthy people want their kid to get really good at one thing so they can be good at it still when it's time to get into college. They don't maybe even know about cross-training. They are just looking at what's going to look good and make their kid 'competitive'- first on preschool applications (I KID YOU NOT) and then on high school applications, and then on college ones. They are coming at it with a knowledge set about how to make your kid look like a special snowflake, but not from a knowledge base of how to avoid injury in the meantime.

    I mean no offense to rich people in making this kind of blanket statement, but for better or worse I see a lot of people who are really rich in my work, and they mean no harm and love their kids, but this is honestly how many of them think. Say cross training to them and you'll get a blank look. Say 'state award winning x' or 'my kid got into x ritzy private school' and that they understand.

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    Quote Originally Posted by karne View Post
    But what do you do if the kid doesn't want to do any other sport?
    Encourage them to cross train to support their skating: strength training, dance class, etc. off ice; school figures or other edge control exercises on ice beyond the minimum needed to pass required tests; limit the amount of time spent each day on jumping or working on flexibility moves.

    The advantage that figure skating has over something like speed skating (always the same strokes over and over again in the same direction) or specialized positions like hockey goalie or baseball pitcher in team sports is that the sport itself rewards well-roundedness in terms of developing a variety of different physical skills, not just the same thing over and over again.

    The hard part can be getting preteen skaters who might be inclined to obsess about mastering the next jump(s) to understand the wisdom of training them in moderation. Or results-oriented parents. Or even some jump-focused coaches.

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    I'm sure cross-training helps, but it would seem to me that cross-training that takes a lot of time might also add to the burden on young bodies. Because the kids would cross-train in addition to the hours of practice in the chosen sport.

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    Spiral Lover tulosai's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olympia View Post
    I'm sure cross-training helps, but it would seem to me that cross-training that takes a lot of time might also add to the burden on young bodies. Because the kids would cross-train in addition to the hours of practice in the chosen sport.
    I think cross-training as it's being spoken about here meant less time in the chosen sports and some other kind of sports or physical activity in addition to it taking time the chosen sport would otherwise have taken. At least that was what I was envisioning. So instead of practicing say basketball 5 days a week and playing a basketball game on the 6th, a kid would practice basketball 2-3 days a week and do a different sport casually 1-2 days a week. (Whether this is possible with kids team schedules nowadays I dunno). There are only so many hours in the day and kids aren't like professional basketball players who practice their sport 4-6 hours a day (at least in season) and then also cross train for 2-4 hours a day with weights, cardio, whatever else. Kids have other things going on, like school.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tulosai View Post
    I think cross-training as it's being spoken about here meant less time in the chosen sports and some other kind of sports or physical activity in addition to it taking time the chosen sport would otherwise have taken. At least that was what I was envisioning. So instead of practicing say basketball 5 days a week and playing a basketball game on the 6th, a kid would practice basketball 2-3 days a week and do a different sport casually 1-2 days a week. (Whether this is possible with kids team schedules nowadays I dunno). There are only so many hours in the day and kids aren't like professional basketball players who practice their sport 4-6 hours a day (at least in season) and then also cross train for 2-4 hours a day with weights, cardio, whatever else. Kids have other things going on, like school.
    I think the point is also that instead of seven year olds playing hockey 8 mths out of the year and training for hockey only during the other 4 mths, they would play hockey for three months and play baseball for three months and so on...One thing talked about in regard to high school sports in my area is that athletic kids used to be three sport athletes--a boy might run cross country in the fall, play basketball in the winter and do jumping events in track in the spring. Now that same boy plays on an elite traveling club basketball team in the summer and fall, plays high school basketball in the winter season, and trains for the elite traveling basketball team in the spring.

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    At the rink. Again. mskater93's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skatedreamer View Post
    Do you mean that sibs get stuck @ the rink while bro/sis practices so that the sibs can't do their own stuff? If so, sounds like countless hours of therapy in the making.
    exactly

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    Spiral Lover tulosai's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by louisa05 View Post
    I think the point is also that instead of seven year olds playing hockey 8 mths out of the year and training for hockey only during the other 4 mths, they would play hockey for three months and play baseball for three months and so on...One thing talked about in regard to high school sports in my area is that athletic kids used to be three sport athletes--a boy might run cross country in the fall, play basketball in the winter and do jumping events in track in the spring. Now that same boy plays on an elite traveling club basketball team in the summer and fall, plays high school basketball in the winter season, and trains for the elite traveling basketball team in the spring.
    Yes this is even what it was like 10 years ago when my brother was in high school. He was a three sport athlete and this was typical EVEN of people at our school who wanted to play a sport seriously on the college level. For example, we had one kid who did go on to play on Kentucky's basketball team in college as a starter. He played basketball in the winter (and also did go to a basketball camp in summer) but played baseball in spring and soccer in fall.

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    Going to back the injury question - lot of parents (rich or poor) do not listen to the child when the child says a part of the body hurts. So the minor injury continues and builds until a long-term issue.

    Genetics also plays a role in child's physical development - some families are just prone to (fill in body part here) injuries.

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