Read this in the New York Times a few days ago, and immediately thought about skiing. What do you guys think?
Doctors See a Big Rise in Injuries for Young Athletes
By BILL PENNINGTON
Published: February 22, 2005
A competitive swimmer since she was 7, Alex Glashow of Barrington, R.I., logged 8,000 yards a day in the pool, until her arms ached. She learned to dislocate one shoulder intentionally to ease the pain in the water, but after shoulder surgery and a year of physical therapy, Glashow quit competitive swimming forever when she was 15.
Jeret Adair, a top young pitching prospect from Atlanta who started 64 games in one summer for his traveling baseball team, last year had Tommy John surgery, an elbow reconstruction once reserved for aging major leaguers.
Ana Sani of Scarsdale, N.Y., a 13-year-old budding soccer star, practiced daily until she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee.
Around the country, doctors in pediatric sports medicine say it is as if they have happened upon a new childhood disease, and the cause is the overaggressive culture of organized youth sports.
'They are overuse injuries pure and simple,' Dr. James Andrews, a nationally prominent sports orthopedist, said. 'You get a kid on the operating table and you say to yourself, 'It's impossible for a 13-year-old to have this kind of wear and tear.' We've got an epidemic going on.'
Typical injuries range from stress fractures, growth plate disorders, cracked kneecaps and frayed heel tendons to a back condition brought on by excessive flexing that causes one vertebra to slip forward over another vertebra. Most are injuries once seen only in adults.
Dr. Lyle Micheli, a pioneer in the field of treating youth sports injuries and director of the sports medicine division of Boston Children's Hospital, said that 25 years ago, only 10 percent of the patients he treated came to him for injuries caused by overuse. Back then, most childhood injuries were fractures and sprains. Dr. Micheli said overuse injuries now represented 70 percent of the cases he sees. In interviews with more than two dozen sports-medicine doctors and researchers, one factor was repeatedly cited as the prime cause for the outbreak in overuse injuries among young athletes: specialization in one sport at an early age and the year-round, almost manic, training for it that often follows.
'It's not enough that they play on a school team, two travel teams and go to four camps for their sport in the summer,' said Dr. Eric Small, who has a family sports-medicine practice in Westchester County. 'They have private instructors for that one sport that they see twice a week. Then their parents get them out to practice in the backyard at night.'
Pushing Children to Overachieve
Dr. Angela Smith, an orthopedic surgeon at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said parents in virtually every sport were pushing their children to excess in pursuit of college scholarships or the dream of a professional sports career. 'The volume of training has increased beyond the maturing young body's ability to handle it,' she said.
Doctors lament the loss of what has become a cultural artifact: the playground athlete. Two decades ago, sports for children were often unorganized, with pick-up games common in schoolyards and community parks.
'Children might have played baseball, basketball and football all in the same day,' Dr. Micheli said. 'This was good for their bodies, which developed in balance. Now young athletes play sports supervised by adults who have them doing the same techniques, the same drills, over and over and over.
'By playing one sport year-round, there is no rest and recovery for the overused parts of their body. Parents think they are maximizing their child's chances by concentrating on one sport. The results are often not what they expected.'
In his office in Birmingham, Ala., Dr. Andrews hands the parents of new patients a piece of chalk and points to a blackboard in the corner.
'I say, 'Write down when your child started playing his sport, how many teams he's played for, what camps he went to, for how many years, what private instructors he's seen, what championships he won, what his stats were, all that stuff,' ' Dr. Andrews said. 'Then I walk out of the room. I come back in and they've filled up the blackboard. They're proud.
'And I say, 'You all know why he's here seeing me?' And I point to the blackboard. That's when the light bulb goes off.'
'Skiing is so sick... I don't even understand how cool it is.'
- Luke Waldo, after watching WSKI106