What!?! "Aren't you a sports chiropractor?" "Don't you play sports?" "Well I think you're an idiot!"
Well if these just ran through your head as your read the title of this blog the answers are YES, YES and that depends on who you talk to.
I don't think you should play a sport per se, but instead you should focus on being an ATHLETE. What's the difference. The difference is early specialization and specific skill development which can lead to a predisposition for injury and decreased performance.
Playing sports is not a bad thing, that's not what I'm trying to say, but in this day and age our youngsters are beginning to be trained like lifetime career, single sport athletes, rather than becoming proficient in building speed, strength, power and agility through multiple sports and movement exploration A.K.A. PLAYING!
Famed orthopedic surgeon, James Andrews, has been schooling his doctors and general public for years on how we need to stop trying to piece people back together, and instead focus on injury prevention. Pretty profound coming from a man in his position.
What is wrong with early specialization? Well, nothing if you want to win the Little League World Series or Junior World Golf Championship, by reaching these types of pinnacles in a single sport at an early age, we are almost assured to set that future player up for a lack of performance and a career plagued by injury.
Tommy John surgeries have tripled in the youth population since 1990. Parents are now electively opting for their youngsters to have UCL reconstruction, because of the ignorant belief that pitchers come back better after surgery then they were before. Are we crazy!?!
So how does one become an athlete? As a child grows they need to be constantly challenged both physically and mentally. Some of the best ways a child challenges themselves is through individual and group play. Climbing, crawling, running, skipping, etc... are innate ways that our body learns to move and move well. In our current North American society we do everything we can to absolutely trash our movement patterns from a young age. We put toddlers in shoes with elevated heels, we stick kids in front of TV's/video games/phones, and then stick them in a school desk for 6+ hours a day. Then we pluck that child out of the school desk each day and put him or her into specialized practice for 1-2 hours, and on top of it all we might play that same sport all weekend at a tournament which we have to travel to (which we sit in the car to get to). We are literally conditioning our youth to be injury flawed, early-peeking, poor postured, chubby, trophy touting players, but man-oh-man could that kid throw a sick side-arm sinker at 12 years old!
What I am proposing as the anti-specialist movement is nothing new, in fact it is ancient. Kids need to play, which includes sport'S'. Kids need to move well, move often and in even learn how not to move...on their own. Besides the physical performance detriments of early specialization, the mental toll may be even greater.
So instead of turning that Tahoe into a little league toting tank of doom 32 weekends a year, take U-turn and head for the woods and set those little rug rats free. Your kids will thank you...some day.
Until next time...
Dr. Beau Beard