Is Your Child Overtraining?
Overuse injuries, overtraining, and burnout among child and teen athletes are a growing problem in the United States. Overuse injuries can be classified into 4 stages: pain in the affected area after physical activity; pain during the activity, without restricting performance; pain during the activity that restricts performance; and chronic, unremitting pain even at rest.
Guidelines for parents, coaches, and athletes need to be developed to provide opportunities for education, injury reduction, and early recognition of overuse injuries. A question often asked of the practitioner who cares for young athletes is, “How much athletic training is too much?” There are no scientifically determined guidelines to help define how much exercise is healthy and beneficial to the young athlete compared with what might be harmful and represent overtraining. However, injuries tend to be more common during peak growth velocity, and some are more likely to occur if underlying biomechanical problems are present. Athletes should have at least 2 to 3 months off per year from their particular sport during which they can let injuries heal, refresh the mind, and work on strength, conditioning, and proprioception in hopes of reducing injury risk.
Well-rounded, multisport athletes have the highest potential to achieve the goal of lifelong fitness and enjoyment of physical activity while avoiding some of the pitfalls of overuse, overtraining, and burnout provided that they participate in moderation and are in tune with their bodies for signs of overuse or fatigue. Multisport athletes who participate in 2 or more sports for which the major emphasis is the same body part are at higher risk of overuse injuries than are those who participate in sports that have a different emphasis.
The following guidelines are suggested to prevent overtraining/burnout:
Keep workouts interesting, with age-appropriate games and training, to keep practice fun.
Take time off from organized or structured sports participation 1 to 2 days per week to allow the body to rest or participate in other activities.
Permit longer scheduled breaks from training and competition every 2 to 3 months while focusing on other activities and cross-training to prevent loss of skill or level of conditioning.
Focus on wellness and teaching athletes to be in tune with their bodies for cues to slow down or alter their training methods.