CHICAGO (Reuters) - Doctors should urge children involved in competitive sports to take plenty of time off to avoid physical injuries and mental strain, the American Academy of Pediatrics said on Monday.
Overtraining, burnout and injuries caused by overuse of muscles “are a growing problem in the United States,” the group said in a report published in its monthly journal “Pediatrics.”
Even though childhood obesity is grabbing headlines, the report said, organized and recreational athletics has boomed and now involves between 30 million and 45 million children ages 6 to 18 in the United States.
The report said pediatricians should “encourage athletes to strive to have at least one to two days off per week from competitive athletics, sport-specific training and competitive practice (scrimmage) to allow them to recover both physically and psychologically.”
As children seek to build up their skill, weekly training time, the number of exercise repetitions or total distance should not rise by more than 10 percent each week, it said.
Juvenile athletes should be encouraged “to take at least two to three months away from a specific sport during the year,” the report added.
In addition, the report said doctors and parents should “encourage the athlete to participate on only one team during a season. If the athlete is also a member of a traveling or select team, then that participation time should be incorporated into the aforementioned guidelines.”
Doctors should provide “a special caution to parents with younger athletes who participate in multi-game tournaments in short periods of time,” the report said.
The pediatricians who wrote the report said aiming for the Olympics or a career in professional sports was unrealistic for most children. Less than 1 percent of high school athletes make it to the pros, the report said.
The academy -- www.aap.org/ -- represents 60,000 U.S. and Canadian pediatricians.