Is Specializing in Only One Sport Hurting Your Child?
- Published on Wednesday, 05 March 2014 10:13
- Written by Ann Dennison
It could be. More and more, high school and even pre-teen students are practicing and playing only one sport year round in hopes of gaining a college scholarship or reaching an elite level of competition. However there is no evidence that shows that intense training in one sport before puberty or in the early teen’s results in an improved ability to get that scholarship or achieve elite status.
Injury may be more likely in one sport athletes, especially in pre-teens to mid-teens. In my experience, I have seen a number of middle and high school students that play one sport competitively all year have recurrent and/or serious injuries at young ages. Lack of diversity of activity/exercise can overstress some joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles, while others may be underutilized. Even though many injuries heal more rapidly in youth, some injuries can cause serious or permanent damage. An example would be a teen league pitcher that plays baseball all year long and may not have perfect form who injures the inside of his elbow to such an extent that surgical repair becomes necessary.
Make sure you listen to your child when he or she complains of pain or an injury, and don’t force him or her to “play through the pain.” I recall working at a state youth wrestling tournament a number of years ago when a 9 year old boy who was in tears complained to the referee about neck pain. I was called over to examine the child and based on my professional exam as both an athletic trainer and a physical therapist, I recommended the child stop playing in order to prevent serious injury to the nerves going to his arm. The child’s father went crazy, screaming and insisting that his child get out there and finish because his child was going to win and he couldn’t be “a wimp.” Fortunately, the referee took my professional advice and called the match so the child did not get hurt further during that tournament.
Not only is there increased risk of physical injury, but there can also be a significantly greater amount of psychological stress and early burnout with the sport. I believe there is often an excessive amount of pressure placed on some young athletes to excel that they no longer find enjoyment in playing that sport and end up quitting prior to having the chance to actually get the college scholarship or reach an elite level.
There are many ways to keep a child healthy, motivated and safe, while still working toward a scholarship. Seek the advice of a professional and have your child learn correct training techniques. Limit weekly and yearly participation in each sport/activity. Overly aggressive training is just as harmful as improper training.
Remember, for most youth, sports should be about fun and fitness, not the push to get a scholarship or reach elite status. Although we all watched Bode Miller get another medal in this year’s Olympics at age 36, the majority of elite athletes have short careers compared to their lifespan. Teach your child to enjoy sports as a means of staying healthy.
Thank you for reading and stay active. If you have any questions or suggestions for future topics, feel free to let us know.
DiFiori J, Benjamin H, Luke A, et al. Overuse Injuries and Burnout in Youth Sports: A Position Statement from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. Clinical Journal Of Sport Medicine [serial online]. 2014;24(1):3-20.
Jayanthi N, Pinkham C, Dugas L, Patrick B, LaBella C. Sports Specialization in Young Athletes: Evidence-Based Recommendations. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach [serial online]. May 2013; 5(3):251-257
What Is Your Risk of Cancer?
- Published on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 10:33
- Written by Kateri Kane
Cancer is always a “hot topic” in the medical realm. Cancer research and cancer screening are constantly being performed. Even at your regular doctor or physical therapy appointments, signs of cancer are being assessed. So what are some of these signs/symptoms and what is your risk of developing cancer?
Cancer is not always easy to diagnose because every type of cancer can present a bit differently. Some cancers, such as pancreatic cancer, don’t cause pain or discomfort until they are in a more advanced stage, which makes them harder to detect and treat. Other cancers have more obvious and noticeable presentations, such as skin cancer, which allows for earlier detection and treatment, resulting in more positive outcomes.
According to the American Cancer Society, some general cancer signs and symptoms include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Skin changes (darkening, reddening, yellowing, itching, etc.).
These symptoms do not necessarily mean that you have cancer; however, they are signs that you should be examined by a doctor to make sure that you do not have it.
Some signs and symptoms are more specific to certain forms of cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, these may include:
- Changes in bowel/bladder function – colon, bladder, or prostate cancer
- Sores that do not heal – skin cancer or oral cancer depending on the location of the sore
- White patches/spots inside the mouth or on the tongue – mouth cancer
- Unusual bleeding/discharge – lung cancer, colon or rectal cancer, cervical or endometrial cancer, bladder or kidney cancer, or breast cancer depending on the location of bleeding/discharge
- Thickening/lump in the breast/other parts of the body – breast cancer, testicular cancer, lymphoma
- Indigestion/trouble swallowing – esophageal, stomach, or throat cancer
- Recent change in wart/mole or any new skin change – melanoma
- Nagging cough/hoarseness – lung, laryngeal, or thyroid cancer
Once again, just having one or more of these signs does not necessarily mean that you have cancer; however, you should see your doctor due to the possibility.
So what puts you at greater risk for developing cancer? Some possible risk factors include:
- Age – most cancers occur over the age of 65 (but can occur at any age)
- Tobacco – typically causes cancer of the lung, larynx, mouth, esophagus, bladder, kidney, throat, stomach, pancreas, and cervix
- Ultraviolet (UV) light – exposure via sun, sunlamps, and tanning booths can cause skin cancer
- Ionizing radiation – exposure via radioactive fallout (ex. nuclear weapons explosions or accidents at nuclear power plants), radon gas, x-rays, etc. most often produces leukemia, thyroid, breast, lung, and stomach cancers
- Specific chemicals and substances – exposure to asbestos, benzene, benzidine, cadmium, nickel, or vinyl chloride in the workplace increases cancer risk
- Certain viruses and bacteria – human papillomavirus (risk of cervical cancer), hepatitis B or C (risk of liver cancer), human T-cell leukemia/lymphoma virus (risk of leukemia or lymphoma), human immunodeficiency virus (risk of leukemia and a rarer cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma), Epstein-Barr virus (lymphoma), human herpesvirus 8 (risk of Kaposi’s sarcoma), and helicobacter pylori (risk of stomach cancer and lymphoma)
- Certain hormones – hormone therapy (especially estrogen following menopause) can lead to breast cancer; between 1940 and 1971, Diethylstilbestrol (DES) was given during pregnancy which can increase breast cancer risk
- Family history of cancer – certain cancers can run in families (ex. melanoma, breast, ovary, prostate, and colon cancers)
- Alcohol – greater than 2 drinks per day increases risk of mouth, throat, esophagus, larynx, liver, and breast cancer
- Poor diet/lack of physical exercise/being overweight – diets high in fat increase risk of colon, uterus, and prostate cancer; lack of physical activity and being overweight increase risk of breast, colon, esophagus, uterus, and kidney cancer. Certain risks such as age and family history cannot be prevented, but you can decrease your risk of cancer by avoiding certain sources that are known to increase your risk. Avoid smoking, do not drink excessively, wear sunscreen, maintain a good diet, and get into a good exercise routine. It just might save your life.
Could Exercise Be Hurting You? This is for you ladies…
- Published on Wednesday, 05 February 2014 10:40
- Written by Kateri Kane
In case you didn’t know, February 1st was National Girls & Women in Sports Day. Women have provided amazing contributions to the world of sports, but there are certain challenges that women face uniquely in this realm of fitness and competition. These challenges can be severely detrimental to their health and ability to participate in athletics. The particular challenge to which I am referring is the female athlete triad.
The female athlete triad consists of three conditions: disordered eating, menstrual dysfunction, and premature osteoporosis. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) coined this term in 1993 after decades of observing the connection between bone mineral density, stress fractures, and eating disorders with female athletes. Emerging data may eventually expand the triad to a tetrad to include endothelial dysfunction (a disorder of the inner lining of the blood vessels), but currently it remains a triad.
The key component to the entire triad is disordered eating, or energy availability. Amenorrhea, or the absence of a menstrual cycle during normally fertile years, can occur when the body’s total fat storage has dropped below a normal range; thus, poor nutritional consumption especially in combination with excessive exercising can lead to this condition. A healthy amount of body fat for women should fall within the 15-25% range and for athletic women 14-20% is a common range. Amenorrhea causes a drop in estrogen which is a hormone that keeps bones strong. This menstrual abnormality, especially in combination with poor calcium consumption, can then lead to osteoporotic changes in the body. In other words, if a female athlete does not consume an appropriate amount of nutrients for her level of activity, then over time menstrual dysfunction and premature osteoporosis are the result. Certain sports which either reward a slender physique or in which performance is improved with a smaller body mass (ex. figure skating, gymnastics, ballet, distance running, etc.) place athletes at a higher risk for developing eating disorders. Females in particular are 5-10 times more likely to develop eating disorders than males.
So what kind of damage does this really do? Poor nutrition in general has several negative effects including a reduction in overall energy level and, as previously stated, the eventual reduction in bone density. This reduction in bone density can lead to fractures (ex. stress fractures) which in turn will stunt the athlete’s ability to participate in her sport. Furthermore, there will likely be long term negative effects due to the decrease in bone density. Youth is when bone is supposed to be built while later in life (i.e. menopausal age) bone density decreases. If you begin with poor bone density as a child, then later in life you will have less bone stored up, thus causing greater weakness and increased risk of broken bones as you age.
So what can you do? As a parent or coach, always promote healthy eating habits. The emphasis should be directed away from weight loss and placed more so on healthy eating. Promote healthy sleeping habits, as well. Certain concerns with performance may be improved simply by getting into a proper sleeping routine. If your child or student-athlete has already fallen into a pattern of disordered eating, then you should urge them to seek medical treatment or directly consult a physician regarding your concerns. Most often treatment requires a joint approach including the physician, nutritionist, psychologist, and the support of family, friends, teammates, and coaches. The following chart from The Canadian Journal of Diagnosis provides strategies for both the prevention and treatment of the female athlete triad.