Medicine Sports Medicine

One Sport, One Love (repost)

Over the past several years the concept of well rounded young athletes playing 3 sports over the course of a year has died. Most want to be specialized in one sport. Whether the sport is soccer, baseball or running, we rarely see the child athlete playing football or soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball or track in the spring.

In fact, school centered sports is no longer the norm. Travel sports rules. Year long focus on one sport is it. This has resulted in more overuse injuries than there should be. It has also resulted in more teens having the “Tommy John” elbow surgery and even for parents to seek it to see if it may make what started as a normal arm, pitch faster. Read Fit Young Pitchers See Elbow Repair as Cure-All in the New York Times for a current journalistic perspective on the surgery aspects of this. The article neglected to mention the year long focus on pitching as the root cause.

…it is becoming more commonplace among teenage pitchers who are injuring their arms through overuse at what surgeons call an alarming rate.

Some parents and young pitchers, hoping for college scholarships or multimillion-dollar professional contracts, misguidedly view the surgery as a performance-enhancement technique instead of a last-resort corrective procedure, said Matt Poe, a speed and strength coach in Nashville.

Often, pitchers who are pushed the hardest and sustain the worst overuse injuries are the most talented, doctors said. In the late 1990s, Dr. Andrews said he performed 5 to 10 Tommy John operations a year on high school pitchers. This year, he said, he may perform 75. Last month, he operated on a 14-year-old.

And for two interesting pages the article goes on.

“I don’t think there’s as deep a talent pool anymore,” Dr. Petty said, because so many kids are coming out of high school with what he called “100,000-mile arms.”

It’s not the talent pool. Pitchers have always been in short supply. High schools have made do with very few pitchers for years. But, not until recently did they only pitch for most all of the year.