An Orthopedic Surgeon's guide to youth baseball injury prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation for Parents, Coaches, and Players.
Wesley K. Cox M.D. is a board certified orthopedic surgeon specializing in disorders of the shoulder, elbow, and sports medicine. Dr. Cox received his Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology at Auburn University where he graduated Magna Cum Laude. He then completed medical school in Little Rock at UAMS where he was twice awarded the Washington County Medical Society scholarship and a member of Alpha Omega Alpha, the medical honor society.Read More »
Still not convinced? Here are some numbers:
-In 2012 The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia saw a 400% increase in ACL
ruptures then in 1999
-40 million kids play sports between the ages of 7-12. By the time they reach
13 more then 70% of them stopped playing due to injury or burnout.
It is estimated that 98% of athletes that specialize before 15 years of age
will never reach the highest level of their sport.
So the question arises at what age is it ok to specialize? Studies indicate that 15 for boys and 13 for girls are adequate ages in where their bodies will have more of an ability to tolerate the demands of specialization. They are more skeletally mature at this point as well as more psychologically mature. However, I would encourage your child to play a different sport each season because no one sport corner’s the market on fundamental movements that can translate to very specific portions of every sport specific action. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the results to change. Mix it up and you won’t believe the improvements you see.
What do Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield, Marion Jones, and John Elway have in common? Need a hint….each of them excelled in multiple sports before becoming professional athletes. Here is another one: What do Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Michael Phelps have in common. Most people would answer “they were young phenoms” (or some degree of that). That is correct to an extent, however, they all participated in individual sports. Most team sports are deemed late specialization sports. In late specialization sports, such as baseball, football, and basketball, research has shown early focus in these sports actually can cause slower development.
I would encourage parents and coaches to walk around on their toes for 1 day at work. Sounds a little crazy, but give it a go and see how your body reacts. For those of you who would rather not, let me tell you what happens. Your calves feel like they want to explode, your back aches for days, and if you do it long enough the soles of your shoes wear out abnormally. So what does this have to do with early specialization—-EVERYTHING. This is what we do to children when we ask them to participate in one sport year around. We stress muscle groups that are required for that sport skill and do not allow the opposing groups to balance the body out.
Did you know?
45 yrs to include the first African American player
30 yrs to ban the spitball
70 yrs to require batting helmet
88 yrs to mandate catcher’s helmets
Baseball leadership/parents have always focused on the question of “how” we do things. Adults and coaches are always looking for the magic recipe, yet the kids are looking for the “why”. Do we do drills, workouts, or practices because that is the way they have always been done by teams that win or is it because kids need that at that point in their developmental maturation? How are we developing young athletes and “why” are we doing these techniques? Planning, preparing, and focusing on the long term development of all young athletes will breed success in the short term as well as their future careers.
In order to shed light on the best method for developing young athletes, we should turn to research and science. The Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD) model best demonstrates the most effective means for developing young athletes. Athletes that follow logical and developmental pathways are more likely to achieve higher levels of participation. So what are these pathways?
The pathways mentioned are road maps that develop both fundamental movement skills (FMS) and fundamental sports skills (FSS). Basic FMS are agility, balance, and coordination while FSS are running, jumping, throwing, striking, catching, and dribbling. Once a young athlete develops these basic fundamental movement patterns and skills then they can advance. Without these, the ability to master a sport will be much more difficult.
Baseball bases the level of an athlete based on their chronological age, but notice how there are such large discrepancies on teams. This is because no two children are at the same developmental age. If a child is properly trained during the appropriate developmental phase, then they have the ability to learn that particular movement/skill at a higher level then if there is an attempt to teach them that later. Over the next several entries, we will delve a little deeper into the LTAD model and windows of trainability.
This cannot only make your child a better athlete, but a healthier one as well!