Kids Who Only Play One Sport Risk Injuries
The Olympics in London. Credit: London 2012
Aug. 13, 2012 --
The Games of the XXX Olympiad have been filled with firsts, starting with London being the first city to have hosted the modern Olympic Games three times (1908, 1948 and 2012). With the Olympic torch now extinguished, take a look at some Olympians who made history this summer.
Michael Phelps with the FINA lifetime achieve
Michael Phelps, who dominated at the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Games, cemented his place in history at the London Olympics. By winning four golds and two silvers, he collected a total of 22 medals, becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time. The 27-year-old Baltimore swimmer retired with twice as many golds (18) as any other Olympian. In London he was presented with the FINA (Federation International de Natation) lifetime achievement award, "The greatest Olympic athlete of all time." He retired with no regrets. "I did everything I wanted to and finished my career how I wanted to," Phelps told reporters.
Adams (left) on her way to winning the fight
Thirty-six female boxers from 23 different nations fighting across three weight divisions made history in London: They signed the death of the Games' last male-only sport. Nicola Adams from Great Britain became the first gold medalist in women's boxing at the Olympics, followed by boxers Katie Taylor from Ireland and Claressa Shields from the United States. "It's nice to have a bit of recognition for all the years I've been training. I used to look up to Muhammad Ali, and it's a great feeling to know that now kids who are just starting in the sport will have a female to look up to as well," Adams said.
Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrates after crossi
Jamaican runner and fastest man in the world Usain Bolt anchored himself into history by becoming the first man ever to win the 100-meter and 200-meter gold medals at consecutive Olympic games. He then won a third gold for the second successive Olympic games by leading his 4x100-meter relay team to a new world record. "I'm now a living legend. I'm also the greatest athlete to live," 25-year-old Bolt said.
Gymnast Gabby Douglas made history by becoming the first African-American woman to win the all-around event in the women's gymnastics competition at the Olympics. Legendary gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi praised Douglas' gold-winning performance and the example she set for future athletes. "Thousands and thousands of African-American kids are going to go into gymnastics because of her, because they will want to be the new Gabby Douglas," Karolyi said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "With Mary Lou in 1984, her popularity doubled the number of gymnastics participants in this country. I expect a similar effect with Gabby. She came out of nowhere and is now an explosion."
Sarah Attar became the first Saudi Arabian wo
She came last in the final heat of the 800-meter, yet Sarah Attar, dressed in a long-sleeved green training top, long jogging bottoms and a white hijab, made history by being the first Saudi Arabian woman ever to be allowed by her country to run in the Olympics. "It is a historic moment. I hope it will make a difference. It is a huge step forward," Attar said.
Wojdan Shaherkani, the other woman from the S
In a series of women firsts, London 2012 marked the first time conservative Islamic nations Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Brunei allowed their female athletes to compete at the Games.
Ben Ainslie of Great Britain during men's Fin
Great Britain's Ben Ainslie sailed into Olympic history, becoming the most decorated Olympic sailor of all time. Sixteen years after winning a silver at the Atlanta 1996 Games, the 35-year-old triumphed on home waters, winning his fourth straight gold. Ainslie was chosen to carry the flag for the British team at the London 2012 Olympic Games closing ceremony.
Josefa Idem from Italy became the first woman
As she won the women's kayak single 500-meter semifinal against women nearly half her age, 47-year-old Josefa Idem from Italy entered Olympic history, becoming the first woman to compete in eight Olympic Games. Idem, who won an Olympic bronze medal in Los Angeles in 1984 when she was only 19, began her three-decade career in her native West Germany, but became a naturalized Italian citizen in 1992. Four years later she claimed bronze in Atlanta, then gold in Sydney in 2000 and silver at both Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008). In London, the Italian kayaker finished her final race of career in fifth place, just three tenths of a second from a bronze medal and under two seconds from gold. "It's never too late to dream. Never too late to get going. This is the message I wish to leave," Idem said.
Oscar Pistorius of South Africa competes in t
South Africa's Oscar Pistorius made history by becoming the first amputee sprinter to compete at any Olympics. The 25-year-old double-amputee runner, four-time Paralympic champion, ran on his carbon-fiber blades in the men's 400-meter and was part of South Africa's 4x400-meter relay team. "It has been an unbelievable experience. I didn't come here to prove a point. I wanted to do the best I could possibly do," Pistorius said. Chosen to carry South Africa's flag at the closing ceremony for the London Olympics, Pistorius will defend his 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter titles at the Paralympic Games in London later in August.
Felix Sanchez of Dominican Republic celebrate
As he reclaimed the 400-meter hurdles crown, 34-year-old Felix Sanchez from the Dominican Republic became the oldest-ever winner of an Olympic Games sprint event. Sanchez took gold at Athens eight years ago but was not widely considered to be a medal contender this time around. "No one expected this. A lot of people said I should retire, but I stuck with it," Sanchez said.
Evgeniya Kanaeva of Russia. Credit: London 20
Russia's Evgeniya Kanaeva wrote her name in the record books by becoming the most successful rhythmic gymnast in Olympic history. The 22-year-old is the first woman to win two Olympic rhythmic gymnastics all-around titles, winning at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics. "I have worked so hard for the last four years. I have worked hard throughout my whole childhood to be where I am today," Kanaeva said.
Venus and Serena Williams became the first pl
As they won the women's doubles champions at London 2012, Venus and her sister Serena Williams became the the greatest Olympic tennis players ever. The American pair have accumulated four gold medals each. Venus won a singles gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and the pair won the doubles gold medal that year as well. They won the doubles at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In London, Serena equaled her sister in singles competition by winning the gold. Less than 24 hours later, Serena and Venus took home the gold in doubles. "For us, it's so exciting winning the gold together. For me, it was amazing to watch Serena from the stands and see her complete the golden slam," Venus said.
Manteo Mitchell of the United States competes
U.S. athlete Manteo Mitchell performed heroically in the 4x400-meter relay preliminaries by running on a broken leg. The 25-year-old had broken the left fibula bone running the first leg in the preliminary round. "As soon as I took the first step past the 200-meter mark, I felt it break. I heard it. I wanted to just lie down," Mitchell said. Instead, he just ran on it. "It felt like somebody literally just snapped my leg in half. It hurt so bad. I'm pretty amazed that I still split 45 seconds on a broken leg," Mitchell said. Without Mitchell's courage and determination to finish the run, the American team would have not been able to be at the starting line in the final, where it won a silver medal.
U.S. player Lebron James dunks in a match aga
The U.S. men's basketball team made history by thrashing the Olympics record for most points scored in a game. The Americans demolished the Nigerian team 156-73.
Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrates winning gold
With the London 2012 Olympics being the most digitally connected event ever, self-proclaimed living legend Usain Bolt also triumphed on the Internet. After his 200-meter victory, the Jamaican Olympian set a new Twitter Olympic conversation record with more than 80,000 tweets per minute. Bolt himself tweeted to his 1.3 million followers: "Thanks to all my real fans and people who believe in me. I am now a living legend that's for sure."
Summer vacation is almost here, and so is the start of sports camps designed to transform fun-loving kids into super-powered athletes. Many of us know parents who are determined to groom sports prodigies just like the Williams sisters, Tiger Woods or perhaps one of the Manning brothers if only they log enough hours in the gym or practice court.
But a new study by a pediatric orthopedist in Chicago found that early specialization doesn’t really work. In fact, picking a single sport to focus on usually results in overtraining injuries, and worse, won’t turn your kid into an elite or professional athlete.
“There’s a great misconception of what it takes to succeed in sports,” said Neeru Jayanthi, an associate professor in the Departments of Family Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery and Rehabilitation at Loyola University in Chicago. “You see Tiger Woods or Andre Agassi or any young phenom, and you think that’s what it takes. We are much worse than other countries. They try to diversify an athlete, we start right away with specialization.”
Jayanthi's study of 1,200 athletes from 8 to 18 years old and found that those who specialize and train intensively have a significantly higher risk of injuries like stress fractures. Kids who spent more hours per week than their age playing one sport -- a 10-year-old gymnast training 11 hours a week for example -- was 70 percent more likely to get overuse injuries.
Jayanthi and colleagues at Loyola and Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago studied 1,206 young athletes. There were 859 total injuries, including 564 overuse injuries, in cases in which the clinical diagnosis was recorded.
The overuse injuries included 139 serious injuries such as stress fractures in the back or limbs, elbow ligament injuries and osteochondral injuries (injuries to cartilage and underlying bone). Such serious injuries can force young athletes to the sidelines for one to six months or longer.
Jayanthi agreed that common sense dictates that playing too much isn’t good. However, he said he wanted to develop some specific recommendations rather than just general advice to back off:
Don't practice and play one sport more hours per week than the child's age.
Don't spend more than twice as much time playing organized sports as in the gym and unorganized play.
Don't specialize in one sport before late adolescence.
Take a break from competition for 1 to 3 months each year.
Take at least 1 day off per week.
Jayanthi says he's seen overtraining injuries from individual sports such as gymnastics, tennis, swimming, competitive dance, as well as team sports like soccer, basketball and baseball.
“Early introduction is completely fine,” Jayanthi said. “You can get kids out there and develop athletic skills. The problem is early specialization.”
Jayanthi and his colleagues presented their findings at the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine meeting recently. A similar survey at UCLA looked at the sports histories of 300 collegiate athletes in 220 varsity spots. It found that the best athletes shared two things: a diverse sports history until late teens and parents who were also competitive athletes.
“You do need to practice, you do need to participate in a consistent way,” said John DiFiori, chief of sports medicine at the UCLA School of Medicine, and team physician to the school’s department of athletics. "But rest is important, and so are a variety of physical skills. That’s the whole concept of sport diversification.”
DiFiori also said that developing athletes need more time away from structured practices and games.
“Look at Brazil,” he said about the soccer powerhouse. “They’re encouraged to play without supervision.”