Kids should take 3 months off from their sport each year

I saw two middle school athletes in my office earlier this week. They were in the exam rooms right next to each other, and I saw one right before the other.

The first young patient was a baseball player. He had an injury that kept him out of the last travel tournament with his elite travel team. With only two weeks left in that season, he was aiming to return to another baseball team he plays for during the winter season. He then plans to return to the travel team for spring baseball.

The other athlete was trying to overcome an injury in cross country. With only two meets left, he was willing to miss those competitions to return to sports. But in a few weeks, he planned to start playing for the basketball team before switching to track in the spring.

Which option is the healthier one long-term?

All sports place stresses on certain parts of the body. Which areas withstand those stresses depends on the demands of that particular sport. The challenge for young athletes who play their one sport all year is that they keep absorbing those stresses to the same body parts over and over with no break.

It can be a soccer player who develops increasingly severe foot or ankle pain from pushing through season after season in travel soccer without a break. For young pitchers, the wear and tear on the shoulder or elbow might lead to an injury with no rest period.

For competitive athletes in team or individual sports, long periods of rest are critical. All of the major professional sports – all of them – have off-seasons for their players’ bodies to rest and recover. Young athletes need that same recovery period.Young females basketball game

Kids might not want to sit at home for three months, which is understandable. Let them play another sport or train in a different form of exercise. Make sure to choose one that stresses different body parts, though. A baseball pitcher could take one season off and play soccer. A track and cross country athlete could rest her legs and feet for a few months and join the swim team.

In this video, I discuss these thoughts and the overall concept of athletes giving their bodies time to rest and recover. This concept even applies to adults who only like to train with one type of exercise. Watch it, and consider changes that could keep you or your kids healthy throughout the year.

Do your kids play sports year-round without a break? Do they play one sport or do they play different sports in different seasons? Please share your experience below!

3 Responses to Kids should take 3 months off from their sport each year

  1. Thank you. Being saying this for ages. Football over use injuries are a problem in UK. In my day we changed sports in the summer. Never had an over use injury in my life. Now the play football all year round on grass and astro and get over use injuries. Shin splints. I tell them do do something else. Will now refer them to this video.

  2. Daughter is 12. She is a soccer player in a local elite team and also an athlete in her middle school athletic team (mostly jumping and 1000-2500m). They have breaks for all school vacations (2weeks after every 6 weeks) and 2 full months july-august. During the summer and school vacations we are soft on the legs : stop all the running and jumping and have her swim…but now she is getting i terested in soccer camps…

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david-headshot I am an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Charleston, South Carolina.

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