In recent years, sports specialization has become a hot topic amongst both parents of young athletes and medical professionals. There are a lot of questions swirling around early specialization: When should my child begin to focus on just one sport year-round? Are there injury risks associated with specialization? Does specializing in one sport provide a significant benefit for their skill development?
While answers to these questions aren’t always straightforward, in a recent study Dr. Mininder Kocher, an orthopedic surgeon and associate director of the Boston Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine Division, found some compelling evidence of the risks of early sports specialization.
As baseball’s All-Stars gather at Target Field in Minneapolis, some young players (and aspiring All-stars) are being sidelined by Little League Shoulder. This overuse injury most commonly strikes pitchers between the ages of 12 and 14 years and may take them off the field for three months or longer, depending on the severity of the injury. Benton Heyworth, MD, from Boston Children’s Hospital’s Sports Medicine Division, explains the condition and offers some strategies for prevention. Heyworth presented research about risk factors, treatment options and return to play for children diagnosed with Little League Shoulder at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine annual meeting in July.
“Little League Shoulder is an overuse injury that can be prevented,” says Heyworth. The primary prevention strategy is to set limits—on pitch counts and the playing season.
- Players aged 11 to 12 years should be limited to 100 pitches per week, and a maximum of 3,000 pitches per year.
- Players age 13 to 14 years should be limited to 125 pitches per week, and a maximum of 3,000 pitches per year.
- Players of all ages should avoid year-round baseball, limiting participation to eight months a year.
What are the symptoms of Little League Shoulder?
“Pain is the hallmark of Little League Shoulder. Young kids should not be experiencing a pattern of pain with throwing,” explains Heyworth.
Sometimes players or parents may try to cope with pain before consulting a physician. That’s a mistake, says Heyworth. The sooner a child sees a specialist who treats throwing injuries, the sooner treatment can begin.
The specialist, typically an orthopedic surgeon or sports medicine physician, can diagnose Little League Shoulder by history, physical exam and x-rays. The standard prescription is physical therapy and three months of rest from pitching. The physical therapist will focus on stretching and proper warm-ups and address any biomechanical issues, like subtle restricted range of motion in the throwing motion, which may be related to Little League Shoulder.
It’s important to address issues that may have contributed to Little League Shoulder, says Heyworth. Most children outgrow the injury, but if underlying issues aren’t addressed, players may have recurrence of the condition as they return to play.
To learn more about preventing common baseball injuries, download Boston Children’s Injury Prevention guide.
Snow No! I was super excited to watch TV yesterday so I could check out press coverage of Bruins forward Marc Savard, who was scheduled to publicly announce an AMAZING donation he’s giving to the kids of Children’s Hospital Boston.
Unfortunately winter storms in Toronto grounded his flight to Boston and Savy’s big announcement was postponed. The weather may have stolen some of Savard’s thunder, but it can’t take away the great things he’s doing for kids. Marc recently purchased an entire luxury suite at TD Garden, the home of the Bruins, and is donating it to Children’s patients for every home game of this and next season.
Children’s Child Life Services will be awarding the tickets to various patients throughout the hospital, with a special focus on children suffering from the medical and psychological effects of head trauma. It’s a cause dear to Savard, who has had to temporarily stop playing with the Bruins after suffering two concussions last season during play.
“Marc Savard understands firsthand the challenges faced by children suffering from the effects of head trauma,” said Beth Donegan Driscoll, director of Child Life Services at Children’s Hospital Boston. “The partnership with him is an exceptional opportunity for Children’s Hospital Boston patients and their families to experience the thrill of a Bruins game at the generosity of this very special man.” …
On September 12, at 6 p.m. Mark Proctor, MD, director of Children’s Brain Injury Center, will lead a dynamic discussion on concussions in pediatric patients during a live, interactive Webcast. A multidisciplinary team from Children’s Hospital Boston departments of Neurology, Neurosurgery, Neuropsychology, Neuroradiology and Sports Medicine, will join Proctor. Sign up for an email reminder about the webcast and read on to learn more about the patient featured in the presentation.
Even at just 7-years-old, Nicklas Johnson seemed more comfortable on skates than he did walking. A natural born athlete, Nick split his time between the hockey rink, soccer and lacrosse fields, but it was clear that the ice was his true passion. But in 2006 Nick sustained a hockey injury that would force him to reevaluate not only his love for the sport, but his future as well. …