Rest is not something that comes easily to Naperville (Ill.) Central senior Addie Hansen, or her older sister Alli.
Before focusing on water polo at the beginning of high school, Hansen was active in a plethora of sports from soccer to cheerleading to basketball and volleyball. A tight regimen and a schedule dominated by aquatic activities left her under intense pressure, with little time for socializing.
Still active in basketball and volleyball along with water polo in the eighth grade, Addie began noticing shoulder problems — issues that hit their nadir as a sophomore at Naperville Central, when she felt something tear while backstroking. Simple tasks like washing and drying her hair became nearly impossible, never mind her summer job as a lifeguard.
“It’s hard not to specialize when coaches, friends and team parents are encouraging you to join club or do the extra conditioning or take private lessons, especially when your kids ask to do it,” Addie’s mother, Linda, said. “While Addie had health challenges, Alli continued to excel in her varsity sports as a swim team and water polo captain and is now playing club polo at the college level.”
In the last 18 months, Hansen has undergone bicep tenodesis in her left shoulder and then her right after years of pain and dislocations. She returned to water polo each time as a team manager, and says “this is the first time since the eighth grade my arms don’t hurt.”
“I got into sports early following my sister, loving the water, the competition and the friendships,” said Hansen, who hopes to be back in the water with the water polo team this year. “I’ve learned to listen to my body and to stop when I feel pain. I know now how important moderation is, to not specialize in one movement or activity and build in variety.”
The Rosemont, Ill.-based American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) have teamed to provide coaches, parents and athletes with important guidelines to prevent and treat overuse injuries and to encourage less specialization, and more rest and recovery in between seasons. Both groups addressed youth sports safety during a recent “Fall Forecast: Settling the Youth Sports Safety Score” webcast.
Among their most interesting findings:
- In youth baseball, pitching more than 100 innings per year resulted in a 3-1/2-fold increase in injury risk.
- Elbow pain in youth baseball players is experienced by 20 to 30 percent of 8- to 12-year-olds, approximately 45 percent of 13- to 14-year-olds, and over 50 percent of high school, college, and professional athletes.
- Based on emergency room data, the annual injury rate for young soccer players increased 111 percent from 1990 to 2014.
Once again, studies prove that early specialization can have calamitous effects on young athletes’ development.
“We are wiser and better educated to share our story forward and help other young athletes with similar goals,” Linda Hansen said. “It’s important to develop a good relationship with coaches and athletic trainers as well as your doctors and physical therapist.”