Opinion: Sports­ are Hurting our Youth

Anyone with a connection to an athlete is more than familiar with the pain that comes from seeing a loved one laying on the field or court and hitting the ground with fists of pain. In that moment, your mind leaves the crowd and all attention is focused on wondering if the athlete is OK.

If it sounds painful to see this, imagine being the athlete going through it.

An athlete knows their body more than anything else in the world. The moment when their back is to the turf and coaches and teammates swarm trying to help, the only feeling is the feeling of the season’s end.

Every athlete has at least one sports horror story due to an injury on the field.

My sophomore year of high school during track season, I found myself face to the mat after a pole vault went wrong. The first thing they ask you is to move your fingers and toes, but the only thing going through my young mind was knowing the rest of my season was done.

The amount of injuries young athletes obtain is a growing problem for young athletes. Kids pushing themselves into multiple sports at a time has become more or less expected in recent times. Not only do they gain more experience from competing in sporting events, they also set themselves up for opportunities to get scouted by a university. Athletes believe that the more sports they practice the better they will be.

Evidence shows that those children who wait and choose a sport to specialize in are better athletes overall. A recent study by CNN described survey results from 376 female Division I intercollegiate athletes. Of these elite-level athletes, 83 percent participated in multiple sports as kids (three sports per athlete) and the average age of sport specialization was 13 years. Many professional athletes are also evidence to prove this theory.

Former No. 1 tennis player Roger Federer chose between basketball, badminton and tennis. U.S. Women’s National Soccer team player Alex Morgan also found herself on basketball and softball teams before she chose to focus on soccer.

Five-time NBA Champion Tim Duncan was also a swimmer before he committed to basketball. These are all reasons why children and adolescents decide to train in multiple sports, but there are also repercussions to this.

There are solutions to this immense problem that will still keep kids playing the games they love. In 2007, Little League Baseball instituted limits on the number of pitches a young pitcher could make in a given time frame. This is to attempt to reduce the number of shoulder and elbow injuries to young athletes and lower the rate of an elbow reconstructive surgery known as Tommy John surgeries.

As someone who was a young athlete, I wish I would have been held to higher health standards. My injury did end the rest of my sophomore track season but I decided to come back quicker than I was ready to so I could start my junior soccer season on time.

Gaining the skillset that comes with competing in multiple different sports is valuable. However, at some point young athletes have to take their well-being into account.

Marisa  Lloyd can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu 


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