Many of the Australian sporting agencies have long promoted that early specialisation in sport seems to correlate with children experiencing more significant injuries early in life. Theoretically children have not organised all of their personal movement patterns by an early age. In effect they are still learning how to use their bodies. It is no surprise when you hear of the premier league footballer who had a background in ballet. Of course ballet may not be for everyone but learning the agility, body balance and control will always transfer into the child’s other endeavours. Broadly early specialisation can be defined by training more than three times a week and not participating in other activities before the age of 14.
Recently the SBS TV program “Insight” aired an excellent broad panel discussion (Kids sports injuries - 5th March 2019) to consider the issues around the increase in children suffering significant injuries earlier in their sporting lives. Notably children aged 11-16 are most likely to be hospitalised for a sporting injury. The experts on the panel included Professor Gary Browne from Westmead Children’s Hospital, Dr Chris Vertullo who is a Brisbane based Orthopaedic Surgeon and Alanna Antcliff who is the current Australian netball physiotherapist. Here are some of the issues that were discussed in reference to Australian statistics and in discussion with the experts :
Overtraining injuries/Early Specialisation
Changing Recreation Activities
ACL Prevention Programs
Overall, injury prevention here is the key. The trainer/parent who is aware that over-training may be occurring needs to adapt the child program accordingly. Injury during growth spurts do occur and this might especially be a time to review a child’s activities. Try to diversify a child’s activities and consider the programs such as the Fifa and Netball Australia programs for injury prevention. The child and adolescent continue to develop emotionally and physically and these can both be influenced positively by their continued participation in sport. Should you feel out of depth when considering these issues or your child seems to be getting injured a lot it may be time to talk to a physiotherapist or other qualified health professional.
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Jason is the Leichhardt Physiotherapy clinic practice principal. A graduate from Sydney Uni and practicing for 18 years he is passionate about sharing new discoveries.