Participation in youth sports has proven to be beneficial for young people. Kids who play sports learn about teamwork, conflict resolution and how to recover from loss. According to Gabriel Lewullis, MD, with Bayhealth Orthopaedics, the growing trend of sports specialization is putting young athletes at greater risk of injury.
“Young athletes who specialize in one sport are at a much higher risk of injury,” says Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Specialist Gabriel Lewullis, MD, with Bayhealth Orthopaedics. “The athletes are doing repetitive training of the same muscles, tendons and ligaments, which can lead to injury.”
Dr. Lewullis urges parents and coaches to let young athletes explore a variety of sports. “Athletes who participate in multiple sports each year are not at the same risk of injury as those specializing in just one sport,” says Dr. Lewullis. “There is a lot of benefit to changing sports throughout the year.”
Dr. Lewullis says a gradual transition between sports is best, and hydration is crucial. It’s also important to start with non-contact drills before moving to contact drills and scrimmage play. If young athletes are going to focus on just one sport all year, a short break is important. “For athletes that are still going to specialize, it’s critical to take one or two months off from that sport each year. That significantly decreases the risk of injury,” says Dr. Lewullis.
Dr. Lewullis says it’s important for parents to keep an open line of communication with their children and let them have fun. “We have to let kids be kids and let them enjoy playing sports. Ultimately the kids should be deciding which sports they want to play,” says Dr. Lewullis.
To learn more about the risks associated with the growing trend of sports specialization or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Gabriel Lewullis at Bayhealth Orthopaedics in Dover, Smyrna, or Milford, individuals are encouraged to call 302-730-4366.