Sports Medicine Research: In the Lab & In the Field: Parents are Not Aware of Sport Volume Recommendations to Prevent Pediatric Injuries (Sports Med Res)


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Parents are Not Aware of Sport Volume Recommendations to Prevent Pediatric Injuries

Parents' Awareness and Perceptions of Sport Specialization and Injury Prevention Recommendations

Bell DR, Post EG, Trigstead SM, Schaefer DA, McGuine TA, Brooks MA. Clin J Sport Med. 2018. [Epub ahead of print]

Take Home Message: Many parents are unfamiliar with sport volume recommendations. However, over half of parents feel that sport specialization is a problem.

Parents play a major role in their child’s sport experiences. Therefore, parents need to be knowledgeable about recommendations that aim to improve child/athlete safety (e.g., children should participate in no more than 8 months out of the year, participate in organized sport for no more hours per week than their age, and should not be participating in multiple leagues simultaneously). Though, this information is available in the literature and media, no one has evaluated whether parents know about these recommendations. Therefore, the author’s surveyed 1,000 parents with a child between 10-18 years of age who participated in sport within the past 12 months to determine their knowledge of sport participation recommendations and examine their perceptions toward sports specialization. The authors recruited parents from Wisconsin-based tournaments, contests, and games (614 women; ~45 years of age; average child’s age ~13 years old). The expert-approved survey asked about the background of parent and child as well as the perceptions and knowledge of safe-sport recommendations. The authors found that over 80% of parents had no knowledge of sport volume recommendations regarding months per year or hours per week of organized sport participation. Nearly 90% of the parents responded that they were unaware of sport volume recommendations regarding multiple/simultaneous leagues participation. Almost 1 in 4 parents responded that it was appropriate for a child/athlete to participate in multiple leagues in the same sport, and ~60% responded it was okay for the child/athlete to participate in multiple leagues in different sports. Approximately 35% of the parents reported they were either very or extremely concerned about the risk of injury, and 55% believe sport specialization is a problem.

This is an interesting study because it highlights that many parents lack knowledge regarding the sport volume recommendations. These recommendations are in place to help prevent injury in the pediatric population. Despite the low levels of awareness, the majority of the parents agreed that having a child participate in multiple leagues for the same sport was inappropriate. Still, 60% thought that participating in multiple leagues in different sports was appropriate. It should be noted that it is plausible that participating in multiple leagues could result in violating the number of hours per week or monthly sport participating recommendations, which could increase risk of injury. It was interesting to note that only 35% of the parents were worried about their child becoming injured, but 55% believe sport specialization is a problem. Therefore, there is not only a problem in sport volume participation knowledge, but also about the risk of injury that is associated with sport specialization. Medical professionals need to find more impactful strategies to educate parents about sports specialization, sport volume recommendations, and the risk of injury as it relates to sport specialization.

Questions for Discussion: Do you discuss sport volume recommendations with your athlete’s parents? How can we disseminate information about sport volume participation and sports specialization to the general public better?

Written by: Jane McDevitt
Reviewed by: Jeffrey Driban

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Unknown said...

Thank you for this article, I found it very interesting. I am currently an athletic training student and throughout my courses we have discussed appropriate volumes for sports specific tasks, specifically over hand throwing in baseball athletes. We have discussed the lack of education parents and young athletes receive regarding the volume of sports specific tasks.

Personally, I believe there is a lack of education regarding volume recommendations at the youth sports levels. A large amount of injuries are being diagnosed as overuse injuries that started when the athlete was at a younger age. In other words, in many cases these injuries could have been prevented at a younger age if volume recommendations were apparent and followed then.

I think there are a few ways this information could be distributed to the general public better. First, I think a great place to start is at the youth levels sharing information with different leagues, parks and recreations and youth athletic councils. Usually kids start in these leagues to develop their skills, this could be a great opportunity for parents to learn these recommendations before their child develops incorrect sport habits. Next, partnering with global youth sports groups such as: The Youth Sports Safety Alliance and offering coaches and parent clinics on this topic. I believe the two groups that could benefit the most are parents and coaches.

Overall, I found it very eye opening that only 35% of parents reported they were very concerned about the risk of injury. I would have thought this number would have been greater as at the youth level kids are trying new sports and are inexperienced resulting in a greater risk for injury.

Jane McDevitt said...

I agree, I was surprised to see that many were not that concerned about risk. I am sure when you watch some youth games they are not that competitive and they are just running around the field. However, when they start getting to the 8-11 range and they understand the game and start learning the rules, techniques, and biomechanics behind playing the sport is when risk will really start to rise. I think that it is a great idea to partner with some large groups to offer some courses, clinics, and just in general get the information out to the parents and coaches. If we can reach these players younger I, like you, believe we could be preventing injuries and increasing the likelihood that they will be more life long athletes. I think my biggest question is how do we form those relationships to start reaching out so we can be providing these PSAs and educational clinics/courses?

Jacob Clark said...

I agree, it's concerning that so many parents are unaware of these recommendations and putting there children at risk of overuse injury. Parents that are unaware of these recommendations will encourage their kids to be involved in as many leagues as possible believing that they will benefit from it.

Not only are these parents increasing the likelihood of injury but they are actually driving them towards being burned out from sports all together. I took a sports management class last year and we talked a lot about youth in sports. 1/3 of young athletes quit sports every year and 75% of them drop out by the age of 13. The main cause of this is burnout from over participation.

As athletic Trainers it would be very difficult to be involved in the education of child athletes because most sports do not have ATs involved until they reach high school. I think the schools could be very helpful in distributing this information considering they have a very significant amount of contact with children and parents.

Unknown said...

I found the views of these parents very surprising. Overuse injuries are becoming more common among young athletes, and driving more youth to quitting sports at an early age. As Jake stated, over-participating in sports at a young age not only leads to injury, but can eventually lead to burnout and ending their careers. Additionally, over particpation can cause psychological problems among youth due to increased pressure to perform from parents, coaches, etc.

As Jake also stated, as athletic trainers it would be difficult to get this information to parents of youth athletes. I think one way that is realistic is to hold an information meeting for all parents of children who are joining a sports league/team before their season begins. That way, parents can be informed on the risks of over participation and hopefully decrease the prevalence of overuse injuries sustained by youth athletes.

Jane McDevitt said...

Thank you for your comment. I think bringing up burnout and discussing that in the education session is a great idea. If athletes start quitting sports early then they may be at risk for health problems later in life due to inactivity.

I do think education is necessary at these young levels (even the under 5 leagues). The problem is that not all of these leagues are directed by schools. There are many other athletic clubs/leagues that are outside the schools regulation that control the season and ensuring coaches/parents are educated about the rules and regulations. However, it seems they are not having a rigorous enough educational session because parents are not aware of the risks associated with high sport participation at a young age.

Should there be league regulations where they need to hold an information session? Who would direct that session? Should we as athletic trainers be looking at this as more of a public health concern and start up some volunteer opportunities to help get this information to these different leagues?

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