Youth sports are and will always be a staple within American culture. Whether it’s soccer, football, hockey, basketball, baseball and softball, or any other form of organized athletics, these activities are not only fun for kids all across the country, but they can teach lifelong lessons that will help children excel in numerous aspects of their life.
Sports can teach kids about overcoming adversity, as well as strengthen leadership skills. Additionally, they promote healthy lifestyles, can teach sharing and teamwork, and, above all else, they are fun. In fact, approximately 65% of youth sports participants say that they take part in these athletic activities strictly to be with their friends. Sports, at any level, are extremely fun.
The only downfall when it comes to the youth sports movement, however, is that the risk of injury for an athlete is much higher than someone who doesn’t participate in any sporting events. It makes a lot of sense. For instance, though 75% of Americans will experience foot health problems of varying degrees of severity at one point or another in their lives, active individuals — especially athletes — are far more likely to suffer foot, ankle, and leg-related injuries.
Unfortunately, youth sports injuries have become even more common across the United States.
According to the Sun Sentinel, youth sports injuries, especially baseball-induced Tommy John surgeries, have reached epidemic proportions across the country.
Tommy John surgeries have become commonplace across all levels of baseball. In these surgeries, a healthy tendon from an arm or leg is extracted and then used to replace a torn ligament in an arm. It’s one thing for professional athletes representing Major League Baseball (MLB) opting to have this major surgery because their livelihood depends on their on-field performance. But college, high school, and even little league Tommy John surgeries? That’s a little much.
“It shouldn’t be necessary,” said Dr. Tommy John, the original Tommy John’s son. “Minimize injury [and] maximize performance. The success rate after Tommy John surgery is not good. You don’t want this surgery, especially if you have it in your teenage years.”
About 25% of all active MLB players have undergone Tommy John surgery. Additionally, a report published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine showed that the greatest number of Tommy John procedures occurred across the country in the age 15 to 19 group — a rate that is increasing at an average of about 6% per year.
Though Tommy John injuries are extremely common, it’s not just shoulder injuries that are on the rise and it’s not just baseball as the culprit, either.
“We see a lot of knee injuries, ankle pain, back pain. Back pain is a very common overuse injury,” said Dr. Eric Eisner of the U18 Sports Medicine practice at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital.
“The biggest issue is that there’s an overall kind of irrational push by parents on children who are playing sports for such long hours and such long durations and such great repetition that we’re seeing an increase in the common sports injuries in children than say we saw 20 years ago, where injuries like that were much more rare,” added Dr. Randolph Cohen, of U18 Sports Medicine practice.
According to LiveStrong, basketball is currently the most popular youth sport, followed behind baseball and softball, football (which has fallen to third place after reigning supreme for years, possibly because of all the injuries), soccer, and track and field.