Rethinking youth fitness (part 2)

Posted on January 6, 2016

(Last Updated On: April 6, 2016)

This is a seven part series.

The injury factor

Play enough sports long enough, and injuries will happen. It’s part of being active. The more intense things are, the more likely injuries are. The better player you are, the more likely injuries are. Better players play more, they play faster, they get to higher levels. The New England Patriots lost more than half their starting roster this season due to injury. This doesn’t happen in Pop Warner football. When was the last time a rec league was “decimated by injuries?” Formula 1 race cars need more maintenance than Toyota Corollas.

If you make it to high school sports, you will get hurt. Human development is enough to give an intensity producing injuries -8 year olds don’t pull a hamstring but 17 year olds do- and enough Corollas have been weeded out by that point. This is why high school is the first level which has an athletic trainer’s department. You probably have a team doctor too.

It might not be a big injury, like seeing the Patriots have a different guy be out for months at a time every week, but there will be ailments.

My girlfriend only played one year of college softball. By 19 she stopped….after throwing for 14 years. I stopped playing football at 20…after running into people for 15 years. And her throwing and my playing were different than most who played these sports. She was the only pitcher in high school. I played offense and defense because we kept our best players on the field as much as we could. My very good roommate I mentioned in the first post played offense, defense, and was also our kicker.

-> Another indication how at each level intensity changes. In higher level college sports, nobody plays offense and defense. With even more Corollas weeded out, nobody can handle it.

By high school, where most have been playing their sport for a ~decade, wear and tear becomes apparent.  My girlfriend’s throwing shoulder is something she needs to be aware of today (like when working out), at 31, from activity she did before 19. I worry about doing too much due to a right knee that’s had a myriad of injuries. I’m 29. How many 30 year olds worry about this type of stuff? Have this type of injury history? Ask any athlete who made it to the college level though, and they’ll commiserate quickly.

This is crucial because sports can make the adult years harder on the body. We’re all becoming more attuned to what American football can do to the brain later in life, but a lot of these things are more subtle.

  • My girlfriend threw a dart a few weeks ago and immediately grabbed her right shoulder. “Ahh, that did not feel good.”
  • Dancers have been found to have rates as high as 90% for hip dysplasia. You know that thing people worry about in older, bigger dogs? Where they have trouble walking? Going crazy with dance or ballet may exacerbate the same thing in people.
  • I’ve shown how playing basketball a lot from an early age can cause hip issues later in life, such as increased rates of arthritis.

Eventually I plan to show a how throwing a baseball a ton growing up makes computer life harder as well.

We don’t tend to think of sports in this light, but whenever you are regularly doing something you are simultaneously training the body at something. Much of what we train the body to do with sports early in life is not only not beneficial later in life, but can be counterproductive to healthy aging. Playing a lot of basketball as a youth and ending up in a career where that playing isn’t beneficial is one thing. Increasing your odds of arthritis when you’re hoping to live 80+ years is another.

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