Specializing in one sport leading kids to injuries normally seen “in 30 or 40-year-olds”

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– Kids are heading back to school with many of them gearing up for fall sports. But those sports are being played at a higher level than ever before, causing a troubling trend when it comes to injuries.

Youth athletics are drawing millions onto playing fields across the country. Many specializing in one sport and raising concern they’re working the ‘same’ muscles too long and too hard. That overuse is leading to an increased rate of repetitive movement injuries.

“A lot of the trends that we’re seeing in the clinic is that the injuries we saw among 30 year olds, 40 year olds, 20 years old, we’re seeing among 12 and 13 years old,” said Dr. Tuakli.

Dr. Yetsa Tuakli at Yale School of Medicine specializes in physical medicine and rehab.

“These are bones and these are disks.”

She’s treating patients like 15-year-old Hailey Angelucci, at the Spine Center at Yale New Haven Hospital. Hailey has an overuse chronic back injury.

“When I’m laying down, it’s like gnawing jabby pain and then when I’m walking, it’s like little shots of pain,” said Angelucci.

She plays volleyball and is a high jumper on the track and field team at school. Two different sports but targeting similar muscles.

“I think it’s overextending my back which means it’s curving like this too much and that’s whats causing the bones to smush together,” said Angelucci.

Treatment includes physical therapy and rest.

“The key is not to go back too early. So she can’t go back to sports while she still has any symptoms. She can’t go back to sports before she is finished the course of conservative care,” said Dr. Tuakli

Dr. Tuakli recommends playing as many sports possible early on, focusing on one, in the latter years of high school.

“By then you are skeletally mature. Your risk of overuse injury has decreased as long as you have not specialized through middle school and high school,” said Dr. Tuakli.

Hailey is expected to fully recover in about three months.

“I cannot wait to get back to playing volleyball,” said Angelucci.

High jumping is not an option.

“I was always doing something that was a little too much for my body. So when I go back to doing, I’m going to take it easy and not over work myself too much,” said Angelucci.

Dr. Tuakli says holding off specializing your child in one sport for as long as you can will have a positive impact on his or her bone, muscle and mental health.

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