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Are Kids' Sports Too Competitive?

Issue #3 Serious Injury
Most alarming of all is the injury that's resulting from levels of training and play that the AAP has called extreme even for adults: 12-year-old baseball players throwing not just too many pitches but dangerous curveballs before their arms are mature enough, or 10-year-old girls playing five soccer games in just over 24 hours. Consider that "Tommy John" surgery - a complicated, expensive elbow tendon repair named for a former Major League Baseball pitcher who was the first to undergo it - is increasingly performed on high school boys. And journalist Michael Sokolove, author of Warrior Girls, details an epidemic of knee injuries among female soccer players that has left some hobbling like old women in their 20s.

"Everyone in sports medicine will tell you we're seeing more young kids, and as many injuries from overuse as from acute trauma," says Dr. Stricker. "They're coming in with tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, cartilage injuries, shoulder problems, ACL tears - injuries we used to see only in adults. I'm treating a seven-year-old runner with a stress fracture. We've seen runners with premature closure of the growth plates in their legs caused by repetitive-impact injury. As a result, their legs will be shorter than nature intended." Sokolove notes that virtually all the injured athletes he met while  researching his book had one thing in common: They played one sport exclusively, beginning at age ten or younger.

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