Young athletes in demanding sports risk injury, doctors say

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WISH) – Youth sports are becoming more and more demanding as the kids hitting the playing fields are getting younger and younger. 

While playing sports and being active has plenty of benefits, doctors say it could also be causing damage parents can’t even see.

Between year-round sports and required training outside of practice, doctors say it can take a lasting toll on your kids’ bodies and possibly end up cutting their sports career short if they are not careful.

Playing one sport year-round can seem like a good way to get your kid ahead of the curve, but according to sports medicine doctor Kevin Gebke, that isn’t a great idea for young athletes.

“It really comes down to injuries related to overuse in an immature and developing body that leads to most of our visits,” said Dr. Gebke.

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He said it is better for kids to play different sports each season when they are young to help with proper muscle development.

“I just let them go as far with it as they want to. If they are having fun I will let them have fun and keep doing it. But I don’t feel any pressure to have them do anything extra outside of that,” said Chandler Shambarger, who has three kids, two of which play sports.

It is also important that coaches help their athletes form good habits to prepare for game time.

“A lot of times there is a misconception because they are children they don’t need to warm up or stretch or do the proper preparations prior to the activities,” says basketball coach David Stokes.

Doctors say athletes should not be lifting heavy weights before puberty. Chalenging your athlete is fine but pushing the boundaries can lead to injuries and burnout.

“Not to live vicariously through your kids. Do it because they want to do it and they enjoy it and they love it,” says Dr. Gebke.

Minor muscle and joint injuries at a young age can develop into major issues later in their sports career and can last well past the final touchdown.

“I think their bodies tell them what they can do and what they can’t do. So if they are not feeling well or they are tired and have to miss practice I feel like at a young age you let them do that,” said Chambarger.

Doctors say it is important to check in and make sure your athlete is on track with annual physicals and if your child does sustain an injury make sure you allow proper time to completley heal before returning to sports to prevent further, more permanent injuries.