North Texas

Sports Injuries in Children Reach Epidemic Levels, Doctors Say

An alarming number of North Texas children are dealing with an injury considered largely preventable.

Doctors say so many young athletes, some as young as six years old, are suffering from overuse injuries, it's become an epidemic.

"Fifty percent of all sports injuries are due to overuse, and a majority of those are preventable," said Dr. Troy Smurawa, specialist in pediatric sports medicine at Children's Health Andrews Institute in Plano.

Year-round play attributes to the skyrocketing number of children with overuse injuries, which are injuries to the muscle or bone caused by repetitive stress, without time to heal.

"Younger kids we are more concerned about, because they're growing and developing and they have growth plates and growing tissues and growing bones. That repetitive stress can damage those growing bones, ligaments and tendons," Smurawa said.

"Parents are training kids like they're a professional athlete, also kind of anticipating that they may become professional athletes," he added.

The sport they see that causes the most problems, Smurawa says, is little league baseball.

"It's usually in pitchers throwing pitches they're not supposed to throw at an early age," Smurawa said.

He encourages parents to wait until their child is between 12 and 14 years old to specialize in a single sport and adhering to strict guidelines, like a maximum pitch count for younger baseball pitchers.

He also suggests parents address any physical issue that could lead to even bigger problems down the road.

Milton Barboza, father of four, knows the importance of keeping his children healthy enough to play sports.

"Back home, I'm from up North, we had seasonal sports. Here, you can play soccer all year, baseball all year, and I think that contributes to the fact that if you're playing year round, you're not giving your body a break," Barboza said.

His 7-year-old daughter is receiving physical training to correct a muscle issue that could lead to injuries.

"It never slowed her down. She never complained of pain, but now, going forward, I don't want it to get any worse. It's a good thing it was caught when it was caught," Barboza said.

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