Pushed to play: Student athletes getting injured in drive for excellence

The physical toll kids suffer in youth sports

A warning from pro athletes and experts to keep kids well-rounded when it comes to playing sports.

In Florida, teams can get out and practice year-round.

That's why we’re seeing numbers like this: The Sunshine State has the highest percentage of high school football players recruited by Division One schools, 9.9 percent according to the NCAA. It’s way ahead of the No. 2 state: Georgia, followed by Louisiana and other states across the South. 

Working hard and landing a sports scholarship is great, but doctors say half of all sports-related injuries in kids are from overuse.

Parents tell 10News that they want to make sure their kids don’t strike out because of injuries.

Kids are pushed to run fast and perfect the pass.

“As long as it's the child's decision," says Mark Sakalosky, executive director of. Positive Coach Alliance Tampa Bay . "I think way too many times a parent pushes a child to specialize in a sport, particularly at a very young age. 

"The endgame for a parent should never be about a college scholarship or going pro. It's such a small percentage. Only 2 percent of all high school athletes ever play college, only 2 percent of those who play college make it to the pros. The endgame really needs to be about making sure your child is learning life lessons that are going to make them successful, no matter what career they ultimately choose,”  .

Dr. Seung Yi, sports medicine surgeon at Florida Orthopaedic Institute, says too much repetitive practice and play time can wind up with kids getting hurt.

“A lot of the injuries I'm seeing in my clinic nowadays are overuse injuries, especially in younger kids. A lot of times it's from repetitive stress on their ligaments, bones, and muscles that are in their shoulder, elbow, hip, and knee joints mostly.  It’s due to the fact they're not getting enough rest in between different sporting activities,” says Yi.

Even with an injury, most kids are going to want to hit the field. Some coaches may be more worried about the win. The Positive Coaching Alliance believes it's up to parents to be the ones to know when to say, "You're out."

“The parents have to be the one that's looking out for their child's best interest,” says Sakalosky.

Sports mom Tara Martz agrees.

“My kids, I'm just hoping they play what they want to play, in as many sports as they can, and go through school playing sports, and hoping they just go to college,” says Martz.

Martz's 9-year-old plays baseball, basketball, and soccer.  He already has some aches, but knows not to over-do it.

“He has growing pains in his knee, sometimes.  All the sports he does, sometimes it aggravates him, but when he's feeling good he plays, and if he needs to take a break, he takes a break,” says Martz.

The Little League touts that it monitors pitch and catch counts and encourages kids to play other sports to change up the impact on their bodies.

Yi says kids’ bones are still developing and rest, not more stress, is the best way to recoup, even if it means missing a game. It doesn't mean they're taking their eye off the ball, just making sure they don't burn out in the home stretch.

“I'm very competitive, and we want to win obviously, but the most important thing at the end of the day, the thing I asked them when they get in the car is, "Did you have fun?' And they say yes,” says Martz.

If you have questions about your kids playing sports, you have a chance to ask the experts in person.

Positive Coaching Alliance is hosting "Conversations with Coaches" at 7 p.m. Monday at Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa.  It’s a free event. You don’t need to register in advance.

For information, visit the event's website.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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