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Dubois: Finally, someone sounds an alarm about 'professional' youth sports

Last Modified: Thursday, July 18, 2013 7:20 PM

By Carl Dubois / Special to the American Press

James Andrews, an LSU graduate who has become one of the leading doctors in sports medicine and perhaps the go-to specialist for Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, has a message for parents involved in youth sports.

"Give them time off to recover. Please. Give them time to recover."

He's talking to the Plain Dealer newspaper in Cleveland about the kind of specialized, year-round emphasis on a single sport that can harm youths who train almost like professionals rather than enjoying being kids who play a variety of sports.

There's more on it here.

Andrews has some interesting things to say about Drew Brees and other high-profile athletes he's worked with, but the most compelling aspects of the interview involve youth sports. An excerpt:
PD: The best advice you would give parents of a young athlete?

J.A.: The first thing I would tell them is, their kid needs at least two months off each year to recover from a specific sport. Preferably, three to four months. Example: youth baseball. For at least two months, preferably three to four months, they don't need to do any kind of overhead throwing, any kind of overhead sport, and let the body recover in order to avoid overuse situations. That's why we're seeing so many Tommy John procedures, which is an adult operation designed for professionals. In my practice now, 30 to 40 percent of the ones I'm doing are on high-schoolers, even down to ages 12 or 13. They're already coming in with torn ligaments.

Give them time off to recover. Please. Give them time to recover.

I said in the book, I want parents and coaches to realize the implications of putting a 12- or 13-year-old through the type of athletic work done by a 25-year-old. Parents and coaches, though they mean well, need to understand what the long-term effects of overuse can be.

It's interesting to see this after reminiscing about my days and nights playing baseball as a boy and through my late teens. Had travel ball and year-round play been the norm back then, no doubt I would loved to be a part of it. No doubt we would probably have found out sooner, rather than later, about the risks.

It's a fascinating read -- and probably not the last time we'll hear Dr. Andrews speak on the subject.

Check it out.

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