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Is Sports Specialization Dangerous for Youth Athletes?

There comes a point in every youth athlete’s life when it’s time to choose “your sport”. Whether they’re a recreational team player, or a state champion, life gets pretty busy juggling multiple sports and activities. But when is that time, and are there dangers to specializing too early or too late? Can we become a good athlete, but prevent injuries (thus avoiding physical therapy!) and burnout at the same time?

There are a few guidelines we can follow in order to help draw a line when too much is too much. Guidelines are in place in order to prevent acute and overuse injuries in children and adolescents. While younger athletes can often “bounce back” fast, more serious injuries can ruin a season before it even starts. Here’s a few things to consider when signing your athlete up for sports:

1. Avoid over-specialization by signing up for multiple sports in a year. Just like with any activity, repeating the same stressors over and over can make you more susceptible to injury. Stay active and stay involved by choosing multiple sports.
2. “Hours per age” rule. Your child should not train more hours of one sport per week than their numerical age. (Example: a 14 year old swimmer should swim less than 14 hours per week)
3. Limit practice to 1.5 hours per day, and competition to 3 hours per week.
4. Have 1-2 rest days from sport practice/competition per week.
5. Young athletes should have up 3 months off per year, in 1 month increments of a break from organized sport.
6. Focus on form and technique before intensity.

Appropriately managing activity volume, and knowing when to take an injury seriously is hard work. Communicating with your primary care provider, pediatrician, coaches, athletic trainer, or physical therapist when something doesn’t feel right can be a useful tool to ensuring season-long success.

But most importantly, sport should be fun!



Do your running shoes pass the test?

You don’t need performance physical therapists like us to tell you that footwear makes a large impact on running performance. The correct running shoe can reduce your race times and lower your injury risk.

When walking into any running store in Bethesda or Chevy Chase, you will find many different shoe brands and several different models of shoes within each brand. Among this wide array of shoes, how do we determine which is best for you?

The answer is different for each person and is dependent on a multitude of different factors. However, any running shoe must meet a few requirements to be considered and these are the first things we look for when assessing any running shoe in physical therapy for runners.

The first is that it must have a firm and snug heel cup. Your heel sits at the base of the shoe, in a place called the heel cup. The heels cup should fit snugly around your heel and should not be much wider than your heel itself. This prevents your heel from sliding around within the shoe, which would negatively impact foot mechanics.

Next, the shoe must have a toe break that folds where your toes bend.  Place your shoe on the ground and hold it there. Pull the front of your shoe upwards from underneath. The folding point of the shoe should be located where your toes bend. If your shoe prefers to fold at another location, your foot is being encouraged to bend somewhere else. This alters foot mechanics and can lead to breakdown within the structure of the foot itself.

Finally, you should be able to feel the entirety of both feet on the ground as you are standing still in your shoes. People are often unable to feel their arches, which results in more stress on the areas that are receiving better ground contact.

There are 26 bones and 30 joints within the human foot. This results in a large number of ways that our foot can compensate, and therefore, a large number of factors that we need to be mindful of when choosing the correct running shoe.

The 3 factors outlined above are a good place to start when choosing the right shoe, however there are many other factors that may also need to be considered.

Please contact us for help assessing your foot and determining the best running shoe for you!