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Youth Sports: Too Much of a Good Thing?

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Posted at 1:58 PM, Jun 29, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-09 00:35:01-04

CHICAGO, Ill. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Every year, 3.5 million children under age 14 are treated for sports injuries. It’s a problem that keeps getting worse.

Rich Mascheri has been playing baseball his whole life.

“I’ve been playing since I was two years old, since I could pick up a baseball bat,” Rich told Ivanhoe.

As a kid, he practiced as often as he could and it paid off. In 2012, he was signed to the New York Yankees as a pitcher, but was released when he suffered a shoulder injury.

“It was like being on top of the world and having that taken away from you,” Rich told Ivanhoe.

Rich had surgery and is now working hard to get back into throwing shape. Doctors say injuries like Rich’s are becoming more common in younger athletes as they focus on playing a single sport year-round.

“They’re starting to specialize at younger and younger ages, so their bodies aren’t necessarily getting the rest that they need,” Brian Forsythe, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, told Ivanhoe.

About half of sports injuries in kids and teens are from overuse. A recent study found 75 percent of baseball players between eight and 18 years old report arm pain while throwing. Nearly 50 percent of them were encouraged to play through the pain.

“You know you’re a kid, you’re a growing skeleton,” Gregory Nicholson, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, told Ivanhoe.

To avoid injuries, experts say don’t let young athletes specialize in one sport until they at least reach puberty. Limit participation to five days a week or less.

“Cross train, play a different sport, do nothing," Nicholson told Ivanhoe.

Rich is hoping to get back in the game soon. He hopes other kids will remember to play safe so they too can make their dreams a reality.

Studies show children who play multiple sports have fewer injuries and continue to play longer and at higher levels than those who specialize in one sport before puberty.