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Letters: Student athletes under pressure

Readers respond to Lane Filler's column about injuries

Readers respond to Lane Filler's column about injuries in youth sports. Credit: Tribune Media Services / Mark Weber

I read with great interest Lane Filler's column about single-sport athletes ["Devotion to single sports hurts kids," Opinion, July 3].

While I do have concerns about specialization and the increased risk for injury in some athletes, I do not share his take that this is a trend. In fact, I think parents are finding ways to engage their children in multiple activities during the year and are choosing not to have them specialize. In my district, more than 100 high school students play three sports, and more than 250 play two.

Yet one dynamic is overlooked. Many parents feel that to maintain a competitive edge, their children must continue to play in the off-season, although they may be playing another sport in season. For example, a varsity girls lacrosse player may rush from practice to attend an elite soccer practice, and travel to a soccer tournament on Saturday after playing a lacrosse game that morning. We have seen these athletes break down with more regularity, become disenchanted with schoolwork, and withdraw socially more now than in the past.

Outside youth teams were intended to offer opportunities to children who would not normally participate on a school team. Now, teams play during all seasons, except duing that sport's school season, and include the better athletes.

With the pressure to provide colleges with a full resume and the desire to play at an elite level, more students are actively participating in sports activities up to 30 hours per week. It is no wonder that more injuries are occurring in young athletes, but I maintain that it is the overlapping of activities and not specialization.

Jim Wright, South Huntington

Editor's note: The writer is the South Huntington school district's athletics supervisor.

It's about time that the dangers of youth sports specialization receive more media attention. As a strength and conditioning specialist for young athletes, I see firsthand how prevalent this problem has become.

As if the year-round devotion to repeatedly working the same muscle groups and movement patterns isn't enough, parents and coaches are constantly trying to pile more and more specialized training onto young bodies that are nowhere near physically equipped to handle this type of workload!

While I am a staunch advocate of properly structured, age-appropriate conditioning for young athletes, care must be taken to ensure that adequate recovery time is allowed between workouts. In addition, the training needs to be structured so that injury prevention -- and not necessarily performance enhancement -- is the primary goal.

When it comes to training today's young athlete, parents need to stop buying into the craziness and take a "less is more" approach. Allow athletes to take regularly scheduled breaks from their primary sport and stop looking to cram more camps, clinics and training into an already packed schedule.

Mike Mejia, Plainview