Overuse injuries and burnout in sports is not catastrophic in the same way as SCA, neck injuries and EHS have the potential to be, but these are two “hot topic” concepts are making their way through the news these days. These concepts have become a popular topic of conversation as youth sports continues to be a major focus here in the US. Overuse injuries may be the physical consequence of the changing youth sports participation (or should I say competition) environment, while burnout is the mental consequence. The AMSSM position statement does a great job of introducing you to the concepts of overuse injuries and burnout and can provide you key information in a variety of areas, including risk factors, sport specialization and prevention.
According to the position statement from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) an estimated 27 million children between ages 6 – 18 participate in team sports, while 60 million children participate in some form of organized athletics (44 million in more than one sport). Overuse injuries are estimated at approximately 46% across all sports, with lower incidence in sports such as skiing (37%) and higher incidence in sports such as running (68%). These numbers are attention getters, but even more important to note is that many experts believe these injuries are underestimated in the literature based on how “injury” is defined.
When focusing on overuse injuries, prevention is the best medicine, but also understanding which athletes may be at risk (so you can modify their activity as needed) may be helpful. The position statement clearly delineates several key factors to help you identify whether your athlete(s) may be at risk. Parents should be familiar with these factors in an effort to safely navigate the youth sport experience. Sometimes, more isn’t always better. Especially in the case of injuries described as “high-risk”. These are the injuries that can result in a lot of time loss from sport and may even endanger future sports participation. Do you know what these “high-risk” injuries are? If not, refer to the position statement.
“Burnout”, as a psychological term was coined in the 1970s by Herbert Freudenberger as a way to describe the consequences of severe stress and high ideals. He originally coined this term when looking those in the helping professions who because exhausted and listless, often quitting their jobs because they struggled to balance caring for their patients and themselves, often putting their patients first.
Today burnout is used frequently to describe anyone who is experience emotional exhaustion, alienation and reduced performance (most often relative to a job or work), but a clear definition still alludes the experts. This idea of emotional exhaustion, alienation from activities and reduced performance has made it into the sports landscape and is a common area of investigation. Burnout in sports is similar to burnout at work and at its worst often leads to young athletes dropping out of their (once favorite) sport. As with overuse injuries understanding important risk factors and key signals can help any parent decrease the likelihood of burnout in their young athlete(s). The position statement lists some key facts to understand about burnout,
In the end overuse injuries and burnout in youth athletes seem to be connected in some ways, similar risk factors ranging from possible early sports specialization, over training and high performance expectations. It is important to recognize these potential risk factors and make decisions on behalf of your young athletes to help preserve their health, both physically and mentally.
Heather L. Clemons, MS, MBA, ATC