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Excerpts from the Real Sports segment “Sidelined” HERE.
Emily Gervais of Weymouth Mass., is part of a trend -– kids pushing themselves harder and harder in the hyper competitive world of youth sports – picking a single sport at a very young age – then playing it hours a day, virtually every day of the year – until their body simply gives out.
Dr. Min Kocher at Boston Children’s hospital had seen so many kids just like Emily Gervais (a teenage soccer player now retired after twice tearing the ACL) that he wanted to find out if the same thing was happening in the rest of the country.
So he gathered data from hospitals all over the US … and what he found was remarkable. The number of ACL reconstruction on children and adolescents had spiked nearly five times in just a decade.
It’s all part of a trend Real Sports has been reporting on for the last three years … the professionalization of youth sports … a $19 billion dollar industry … fueled by kids and their parents pursuing athletic achievement at seemingly any cost.
Less well known are the physical costs as young people determined to keep up with the competition are picking a single sport at a very young age then playing it several hours a day, virtually every day of the year. Until their body simply gives out.
Dr. Nirav Pandya is a surgeon at the University of California/San Francisco. He says that the number of surgeries he does on child athletes has doubled in just the last five years… but he doesn’t sound happy about all the extra business.
The question is: What will it take to change an American youth sports system that produces so many sad outcomes – major injuries that impact and sideline so many young athletes?
Dr. Neeru Jayanthi at Emory University in Atlanta says that it’s time for parents and sports administrators to act. That this is a public health crisis. And that he’s got the numbers to prove it.
DR. NEERU JAYANTHI: “We have data that’s quite clear that you’re more than twice as likely not only to just get injured, but to get a serious overuse injury if you specialize in sports.”
HBO’s JON FRANKEL: “That seems to be a pretty clear and easy data point to explain to somebody. That if you let your kid specialize in one sport and play season after season, you’re more than twice as likely to get an overuse injury.”
DR. NEERU JAYANTHI : “Yes. Why do we wear seatbelts? Why do we stop smoking? We have data. We now have data on this.”
Dr. Jayanthi presented his research this month at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, stating that the sad truth is that elite-level youth sports is not something that improves your health today.
*Youth Sports Injuries. The professionalization of youth sports pushes more kids than ever before to train year-round in a single sport. And with that pressure has ignited an epidemic across the country – a spike in overuse injuries and orthopedic surgeries performed on children as young as eight. Correspondent Jon Frankel reports on the uptick, such as ACL tears and stress fractures, and how they are hampering children’s future health at an early age.
Producer: Nick Dolin.