Diversification Prevents Injuries, Develops Skills in Kids
Posted by Dean Holden at September 26th, 2015
by Dr. Justin Feldman, 19 September 2015
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 30 million children participate in youth sports in the United States. Unfortunately, it has also found that children between the ages of 5-14 account for nearly 40 percent of all sports injuries treated in the United States each year. Why is this? I like to call it the Tiger Woods effect.
In 1997, when Tiger burst onto the golf scene, we all watched that cute video of 2-year-old Tiger swinging a golf club on “The Mike Douglas Show.” It was then the theory for youth sports began to shift. We started to value specialization at younger and younger ages, and we started to train for one sport year-round, instead of playing many sports throughout the year.
Next came author David Epstein’s hit, “The Sports Gene,” where he popularized the now-famous 10,000 hour rule, linking major athletic success not to a genetic gift, but to the accumulation of 10,000 hours of sport-specific practice. This led many parents to push their children to pick one sport and stick to it; the idea being that the sooner they reached those famed 10,000 hours the faster they would achieve success, get that big college scholarship and maybe even have the chance to play professionally.
What has really happened? As we have shifted from letting our kids become athletes first and specialists second, we have seen a dramatic rise in the number of injuries sustained by young athletes. Even more concerning is the increase in the number of children who can no longer play the sports they love due to “career” ending injuries at younger and younger ages. According to Safe Kids USA, by age 13, 70 percent of children drop out of sports altogether. That number is simply staggering, and we need to do something about it.
The good news is the solution is simple: We must return to the days of letting kids be kids, let them play and not train, and realize they must first become good all-around athletes before they can become sport-specific specialists. As we look at some of the current top athletes, they are all very open about the fact they became great athletes because of the variety of sports they played in their youth. According to USA Today, of the players on the 2014 Ohio State National Championship football team, five of the recruited players only played football in high school, versus 42 multisport athletes.
Wayne Gretzky has been quoted as saying, “One of the worst things to happen to the game, in my opinion, has been year-round hockey and, in particular, summer hockey. All it does for kids, as far as I can tell, is keep them out of sports they should be doing in the warmer weather.”
NHL scouts agree. Trent Klatt, 14-year NHL veteran and New York Islanders head amateur scout, told USA Hockey that he looks for players with the type of athleticism that can only result from spending the off season off the ice. He advises parents and players to “put the hockey equipment in the rafters and go play ball,” and connects the hand-eye coordination necessary to get off a slap shot with what is required to pitch a fast ball.
USA Today recently published an excellent article highlighting the fact that many of the women on the recent World Cup Championship team credit the other sports they played as children for helping to develop the skills they needed to stand out. Forward Abby Wambach said she believes basketball facilitated the development of the jumping skills that make her headers so famous. Morgan Brian said she acknowledges basketball for giving her a better vision of the field, and Amy Rodriguez said she attributes her speed to softball and track.
Tom Brady is known for his quarterback skills, but he believes his position as a baseball catcher developed them. He was actually recruited to play baseball in college, but opted for football instead. Jordan Spieth, the new No. 1-ranked golfer in the world, isn’t shy about telling people he became an athlete well before he became a golfer. He loved golf as a kid, but his parents encouraged him to find a different sport for each season. He was a quarterback, pitcher and a point guard all before he was a golfer. He credits the throwing motion from pitching and football with his ability to control his body through the golf swing, and generate the club speed and distance, while maintaining accuracy.
Unfortunately, while many parents and coaches might try to help their kids gain an advantage over the competition by sticking with one sport year-round, the research shows this actually has the opposite effect. Even worse, becoming a specialist before becoming an athlete is most likely setting up kids for more injuries.
Dr. Justin Feldman is the owner of Feldman Physical Therapy. To learn more, visit www.feldmanphysicaltherapy.com, like them on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/FeldmanPhysicalTherapy) or call 845-475-8769.
<I always thought it was Malcolm Gladwell who was responsible for popularizing Ericsson’s 10,000 hours research previously in his 2008 book, ‘Outliers’; not David Epstein, but I haven’t finished reading The Sports Gene yet. However, see below. Regardless, Epstein’s book is certainly thought provoking so far! DH>
“In The Sports Gene David Epstein blows up the notion that 10,000 hours is all that is required for dominance in a sport and reveals the true complexity behind excellence.”
—DARYL MOREY, Houston Rockets general manager; cofounder of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference – from http://thesportsgene.com/
Category: 10K hours / 10 years, age-appropriateness, athleticism, career counselling, diversification, early specialization, interview, LTAD, overtraining, parents, player safety, research, scouting, skill acquisition, specialization, sporting culture of madness, statistics, talent, transfer, unstructured play