Honey, Please Don’t Play Sports
For many years now I have questioned the effects that sports have on the human body, not just when you are playing them but also the effects they cause as your body gets older as well. Most people believe that playing sports, especially more than one, as you grow up is a good idea, and in fact at the time, it might be. But it also might not be. You can see how this might be counterintuitive. To say that children playing sports is a bad idea due to bad long term effects on your body might sound absurd, and unrealistic, but in fact that is just my point. As kids grow up around the elementary school age and start playing little league and pre-recreational sports we don’t really think about the minor injuries that they may face because they are young and will heal fast. It is said that our body heals fast when we are young and though this may be true, our bodies can’t stay young forever and eventually things that happened to us when we were younger will catch up to us as we get older. The injuries that these children, preteens, and teenagers face can be quite serious, and in fact life changing when thought about in the long term. The consequences your body will have to endure as you grow old are not worth all those years of injuries and beatings to your body. Although there are upsides to participating in sports and other physical after school activities, the problems from injuries could offset the upsides dramatically. According to “Long-term health outcomes of youth sports injuries,” from “BMJ Journals,” Dr. N Maffulli says “Injuries can counter the beneficial effects of sports participation at a young age if a child or adolescent is unable to continue to participate because of residual effects of injury.”
First off, I would like to address the reason why many athletes play sports, and that is to stay in shape and stay healthy. Many people’s definitions and opinions on being in shape and healthy are very different. If you were to ask a random stranger on the street what their definition of being healthy and in shape while playing sports is that would be a totally different answer from an orthopedic sports doctor. And not only that but it would also be very different depending on the person’s body you are talking about. Everyone’s body is different, especially when it comes to being active and fit, this is why certain people are prone to more injuries than others. By definition to be healthy means a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. If you are playing multiple sports and beating down your body is that really staying healthy? Also these different sports require different functions from your body. When an athlete is playing one sport you might be focusing on one part of the body and once you go onto another that may wear down a different part. Thi can have a snowball effect until your whole body is affected.
Sports are first introduced to children around the age of 6, this is when little league and pre recreational sports start. I can remember growing up and playing recreational basketball in the 6 & 7th grade. I liked it and wanted to win but I didn’t really understand what it meant to be on a team or to have the fight to win with your team until I got into high school. At a young age playing sports and being an “athlete” sounds very exciting to many kids, and the excitement only increases as they get older. As they grow through playing these sports so does their love and passion. Children don’t really don’t know what it means to win until they get into middle school and high school, they start to find love for their team and teammates. This is when the sport starts to get dangerous because their willingness to do whatever it takes to win starts to rise, leaving them vulnerable on the field, court, etc. Oftentimes kids will go to the lengths of hurting others or the willingness to get injured themselves if that’s what it takes to win, which might be being aggressive towards others or pushing your body to its highest limit, until it breaks. As their love grows so do the number of more serious injuries. Like Grant L Jones from Ohio State University, says in “Pediatric overuse injuries increase due to year round, one sport training,” ‘In most cases, our sources noted that excessive practice most likely leads to injury rather than perfection.” The excessiveness to be better is when we start to see the overuse of our body, which leads to being more prone to injury.
At this point you may be wondering how many children actually get injured playing sports. Well according to Biber, from “ProQuest,” in “Overuse Injuries in Youth Sports: Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Sports?” he says “Approximately 45 million children 6 to 18 years participate in some form of organized athletics.” And of those 45 million children and teens that play, 3 million of them will face some type of injury. In “Prevention of Sports Injuries,” by Albert C. Hergenroeder, from “AAP News & Journals Gateway,” he says “There are ∼3 million annual injuries incurred during sports participation among children and adolescents in the United States, with injury defined as one that causes time lost from sports participation.” This number unfortunately is only increasing. When you take time to think about how many children that is, it becomes clear that that is an extremely high unsafe amount.
As the children get older the level of difficulty increases and so does the risk for injuries. It has been said in “Sports Injuries Statistics,” from Stanford Children Health, by National SAFE KIDS Campaign and the American Academy of Pediatrics that “Sports-related injury severity increases with age.” There is also another factor as to why injury rates go up as the child gets older and that is the number of sports the child is participating in. If children are constantly pushing themselves to be the best in their seasonal sport which impacts our body, what effect does playing multiple sports have on us? In the University of Vermont study, “Single Sport or Multi-Sport Athlete? Pros and cons,” author James Slauterbeck says that “multiple sport athletes often get injured if they participate in too many sports at one time.” He also goes on to say that “Overuse injuries can often occur because the body cannot rest as it is always practicing or playing a game.” These overuse injuries are what we have to watch out for the most in young athletes, as they are the ones that can do the most damage.
Overuse injuries are one of the most common injuries other than growth plate injuries that are seen in athletes. It has been said in “Overuse Injuries in Youth Sports: Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Sports?” from “ProQuest,” by Biber, “Nearly half of all injuries evaluated in pediatric sports medicine are associated with overuse…Overuse injuries are chronic injuries that occur with repetitive stress on the musculoskeletal system over the course of time without allowing adequate recovery.” The key word there is chronic, meaning that it is recurring or it persists for a long time. Overuse injuries are subtle and usually occur overtime, making them more challenging to treat, if treatable at all. They also usually come with longer lasting symptoms that could last years after it initially happened. Athletes usually get these injuries from not listening to their bodies when they get injured and continue to keep playing. According to the article “What Happens If You Keep Playing Sports When You’re Injured?,” from Teens Health from Nemours, Sarah Gibson says “Playing through a sports injury can cause damage that keeps you on the bench longer. Playing through an injury may even end your sports career entirely.” Unfortunately I experienced this first hand.
I was a 2 sport, 3 season athlete in high school and I remember how rigorous playing sports was on my body. In the article “Preventing sports injuries: opportunities for intervention in youth athletics,” from “Science Direct,” Nancy L. Weaver says “Estimates are that one-third of high school athletes will sustain an injury during a sports season serious enough to result in time lost from participation,” and unfortunately I was one. When you think about one child out of every 3 athletes getting hurt badly enough to not be able to participate in sports that is a very scary number. Sports seasons in high school tend to only have 2 weeks rest time in between them. So that meant that other than sundays, holidays, and the occasional days off my body really never caught a break. So it isn’t very hard to see why I was getting hurt so much. I also was accident prone which didn’t help in my favor. When I think back to all 4 years of high school I can count on both hands twice how many times I went to the hospital, orthopedic doctor, and was put in a cast or boot because I was just always getting injured.
But aside from being accident prone, I also found myself running into countless injuries that were totally uncontact related. One being the day I was running my usual warm up and I felt my back pop. Now, you would think this would stop me from going on and I would take concern to what happened, but I didn’t. Just like I didn’t try to help myself, neither do many other athletes that don’t want their sports career to end. This is when overuse injuries start to occur. I didn’t say anything to my coach or trainer when I first started to feel pain because I knew that my career could possibly be over. All the hard work and dedication I put in to just have it taken away from me in an instant. This mentality is very common today with young athletes, especially those who want to have a future in sports. But what they don’t realize is that there will be no future if you don’t say anything as well.
The other very common injury that is also the most serious, is growth plate fractures or breaks which lead to growth disturbance. In the article “Long-term health outcomes of youth sports injuries,” from “BMJ Journals,” by N. Maffulli, she says “ In a previous systematic review on the frequency and characteristics of sports-related growth plate injuries affecting children and youth, we found that 38.3% of acute cases were sport related and among these 14.9% were associated with growth disturbance.” Growth plate injuries typically affect the younger athletes but there is still a possibility it will affect older athletes too. In “Apophyseal injuries in children’s and youth sports,” from the “British Medical Bulletin,” Umile Giuseppe Longo says “Up to 40% of all injuries in adolescents happen while practicing sports. These injuries are difficult to avoid and are unique to the pre-pubescent-adolescent population because the apophyses are secondary growth centres that open up at about age 9 and are not fully closed until upwards of Age 22.” 40% of injuries that happen to adolescents happen while practicing sports. That is almost 50% of injuries that children face, happening while in sports. That is a lot considering that that is only adolescents. Think about how many more occur to those that are older, it could be more than half of the population being observed. Growth disturbance is what leads to a lot of long term problems that adults who played sports at a younger age may face. When people think of growth disturbance they think of height, but that is often just a small factor. Growth disturbance often means bones, joints, and muscles, which is what helps our body perform the natural functions that are needed. Nicola Mafulli also goes on to say that “Disturbed physeal growth as a result of injury can result in length discrepancy, angular deformity, or altered joint mechanics, and may cause significant long-term disability.” These injuries alter the way you live your life forever.
The complications that young athletes face from these injuries might be acute and offset at the time but as they get older they could continue to worsen. As mentioned earlier when children and teens get hurt our body usually has a fast response to try to heal it and in the less serious injuries that works. But as we get older and our body starts to wither down and the same injuries seem to be worse. In the article “High School Sports Injuries,” from “OrthoInfo,” it goes to say “High school sports injuries can cause problems that require surgery as an adult, and may lead to arthritis later in life.” Arthritis is only one of the big consequences many elderly people face. Arthritis is from the wear and tear caused on our body. Other than surgery many adults have to get injections or shots to help with the pain. The repercussions that many face are really not worth it.
When we are young our bodies have the ability to heal faster, and makeup for the damage that we tend to put ourselves through. The phrase “the fountain of youth,” is not just a phrase but is often right. Doctors will often say to patients when they are young coming in with an injury or sickness that age is on their side. I’ve also heard doctors say it is better to get the injuries out of the way when you are a child because as you get older they might become harder to overcome. Doctors say this because they know the older the body gets, the harder for it to heal itself. But what about the injuries that never seem to heal and only get worse when you are older. These injuries are the ones suffered from overuse injuries, and growth disturbances. This is why it is so important to listen to your body.
One example that I use that many people know about is the injury that Kevin Ware suffered from. Kevin Ware was an extremely talented basketball player for the University of Louisville at the time. It was during a very important game in the NCAA Tournament, when he landed from taking a normal shot, that he takes everyday, that his tibia snapped causing it to protrude out of his leg. Yes, his bone broke in half and cut through the skin on national tv. This was later found out to be a result of not taking care of his shin splints, which lead to stress fractures. Shin splints are more of a common injury that runners get but are possible for any sport. If left untreated they will cause the shin bone to start producing little fractures, that after a while can turn into big fractures like you see in Kevin Wares’ case. As you can see if listening to your body means not playing sports, or giving it a break then that might be a price you have to pay. If you are unable to participate at all, or even able to give 100% of your ability then what is the point of playing sports.
Although we have this idea that participating in afterschool activities, and sports from preteens to adults is a good way to stay in shape, be healthy, and show off our talents, it can have long lasting effects on our life to come. Yes, if you have a natural born talent for something and you enjoy it you should definitely continue it, but if you feel that your body is starting to take a toll, and you are starting to become prone to more injuries than it might be time to take a break. Us humans have to realize that we only get one body and there’s only so many ways and things we can fix before it’s permanently damaged. And it only takes one incident for that to happen. The everyday things that we take for granted might not be possible for those affected. Things like being able to pick up your grandchild, do gardening outside your house, or playing with your dog will be much harder or even impossible if you are disabled or suffer from muscle damage.
In conclusion, playing sports is a part of life, a way of life, and a passion to some people. The playing of sports has been around for many years and will go on to be played for many more. But along with that comes the inevitable injuries. It is not to say that all children should stop playing sports, because some are lucky enough to get through them unharmed. But if it takes a child or teen to stop playing to save their future health and well being then that is a matter they are going to have to take.These overuse injuries that cause growth disturbances seriously affect how many people grow to live their lives and one shouldn’t have to live it any decreased kind of way just from playing sports as a child. Many children are unaware of these risks that come with these injuries. I think if athletes are more educated on the outcomes they might have more of a willingness to speak up about what their body is going through. The understanding of the serious repercussions might be enough to get some to quit while they still have a chance to live a more healthy future. I know that the love for playing sports is intense because I once had it when I was able to play sports. But unfortunately I had to quit due to a lifetime lasting injury that wasn’t addressed at the proper time. But that doesn’t have to be the case for you. So honey I am asking you please don’t play sports.
Maffulli, N., Longo, G., & Denaro, V. (2010, January 1).Long-term health outcomes of youth sports injuries. Retrieved April 14, 2020
Mafulli, N. (2015, March 13).Sports Injuries in Young Athletes: Long-Term Outcome and Prevention Strategies. Retrieved April 14, 2020
Umile Giuseppe Longo , Mauro Ciuffreda, Joel Locher, Nicola Maffulli, and Vincenzo Denaro (2016).Apophyseal injuries in children’s and youth sports.Retrieved April 14, 2020
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High School Sports Injuries– OrthoInfo – AAOS. (2012, August). Retrieved April 29, 2020
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Biber, Rachel, MD; Gregory, Andrew (2010, May). Overuse Injuries in Youth Sports: Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Sports?’. Retrieved April 28, 2020
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Hergenroeder, A. C. (1998, June 1).Prevention of Sports Injuries. Retrieved April 29, 2020