For many of you, your son or daughter has already finished or is just finishing up their hockey season. This year I’ve had a lot of questions about what they should do after the season is done. This blog post is meant to be educational — one to show the downfalls of hopping right back onto the ice. I’ll also talk about how we do things at JB and why we execute them in that manner.

Early specialization in youth sports has become the norm for families these days. Right after the season, parents usually enroll their son or daughter in Spring and Summer hockey. Late July and early August roll around and it’s time to put them in a few hockey camps. Heck of a summer wasn’t it? Time for tryouts!

If this sounds like you, here is the most recent data on injury rates for youth athletes that play one sport all year round:

In a study of 1200 youth athletes, Dr. Neeru Jayanthi of Loyola University found that early specialization in a single sport is one of the strongest predictors of injuries. Athletes in the study who specialized were 70-93% more likely to be injured than children who played multiple sports.[i]

Those numbers are staggering and quite frankly, disheartening. As an athlete you only have one body. If you’re injured all the time you’re a liability to your team. Or worse…you’re not an athlete anymore.

If one study isn’t enough to convince you I’ve referenced five more here.([ii])([iii])([iv])([v])([vi]) If you don’t want to read these here is a quick summary of what they say:

·         Early specialization has little to no benefit for elite level athletes

·         Early specialization has shown a substantial increase in the likelihood of injuries happening

·         Early specialization has shown to have a high burn out rate of youth

·         Athletes that play multiple sports seem to excel at the highest levels

We need to start looking at what the research says when it comes to youth sports. Or anything for that matter. People tend to ignore things they don’t want to hear regardless of what the research says. Don’t believe me? Ask Jenny McCarthy about vaccines and Autism (spoiler alert: she’s wrong).

We pride ourselves in taking a scientific approach to our training. This is the reason why we have our athletes OFF the ice until July (and yes, that includes our NHL’ers). This is why we’re not a fan of Spring or Summer hockey. This is why we want kids to play as many sports as possible at a young age.

Here is what we recommend to parents for their son or daughter:

·         Ages 12 and under- Minimum of 3 sports that create a different stimulus for their muscles. Minimum 3 months off completely from each sport.

·         Ages 13-15 - 2-3 different sports. Minimum 3 months off completely from each sport.

·         Ages 16+ - 1-2 different sports. Minimum 2 months off completely from each sport.

These are just our recommendations and DO NOT include skill work. If you play hockey and want to work on your shooting and/or stickhandling (without skating), go for it. If you play basketball and want to shoot free-throws (without sprinting and jumping all day), go hard.

If something hurts, you’re either doing it wrong or doing too much of it.

We wholeheartedly believe in putting the athlete first. This philosophy has undoubtedly lost us some business. Parents and kids don’t like to be told they shouldn’t play one sport all year round. Allowing their body to fully recover, getting them stronger, and teaching them to move better will somehow put them behind the development of other players. Go figure.

Society is telling us that more is always better. Funny how society seems to get it wrong a lot of the time (i.e. detox diets, juice cleanses, toning, women who lift weights will turn into the Hulk’s twin sister…I could go on for days, as most of you probably know) So with regards to youth athlete development, research and science are telling us that this more=better mindset needs to be changed.

Choose whatever side you want, but just make sure you understand the ‘cost of doing business’ if you choose the former. And realize that cost may be your athletic career.

 

[i] Myer, G.D, Jayanthi, N. (2015). Sport Specialization, Part I: Does Early Sports Specialization Increase Negative Outcomes and Reduce the Opportunity for Success in Young Athletes? Sports Health 437-42

 

[ii] Feeley, B.T (2016). When is it Too Early For Single Sport Specialization? Am J Sports Med 234-41

 

[iii] Nyland, J (2014). Coming to Terms with Early Sports Specialization and Athletic Injuries. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 389-90

 

[iv] Hall, R (2015). Sport specialization's association with an increased risk of developing anterior knee pain in adolescent female athletes. J Sport Rehabil 31-35

 

[v] Jayanthi, N (2013). Sports specialization in young athletes: evidence-based recommendations. Sports Health 251-57

 

[vi] Malina, RM (2010). Early Sport Specialization: Roots, , Effectiveness, Risk. Curr Sports Med Rep 364-71

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