Kids burning out on sports. Is focus on only one sport the problem?

May 30, 2024, 7:00 PM | Updated: 7:07 pm

Utah school sports...

Utah high schools are preparing to return pay-to-play athletics fees to students. (STOCK PHOTO)


SALT LAKE CITY — As summer rolls out, more kids will turn to sports for fun, exercise and camaraderie. But kids are burning out on sports.

More than 60 million children and teens participate in organized sports. However, more than two-thirds of them quit by age 13 due to overuse injuries, overtraining or burnout, reports CBS News.

Dave and Debbie speak with Dr. Matt Seeley, who is a BYU professor of exercise sciences, about young athletes burning out physically and mentally by putting all of their energy into sports.


Kids should try multiple sports, professor advises

Seeley said that the burnout problem is rooted in kids specializing in only one sport.

“I think a lot of parents are misinformed. They’re under the assumption that early sports specialization will increase talent, increase athletic-skill level, which the data [doesn’t] support that idea,” he said.

One-sport specialization also leads to repetitive injuries in kids, both physically and mentally, Seeley said.

He said the first thing we have to remember is that the kid’s musculoskeletal system is different from adults. Theirs’s is not as robust, and it’s quicker to fail.

“When kids participate in the same sport for extended periods of time, they’re seeing the same sorts of loads applied to the skeletal system. And when the same load is applied to a bone over time without adequate rest, it begins to fail and that’s when you start to see things like stress fractures and then eventually other kinds of injuries,” Seeley said.

Taking a break from the one sport is important, he said, adding experts recommend kids take a day or two off from their sport each week.

“If you have a child in your family who’s participating in a sport more than seven or eight months out of the year, I’d recommend that you reconsider that,” Seeley said.

Mental burnout

As far as the psychological burnout, Seeley said the same is true for adults: If someone does the same activity over and over again, it becomes less enjoyable over time.

“If your kid is displaying sudden disinterest in the sport. It’s not fun anymore. They’re not excited to go to practice and not excited to go to games. I think that’s a warning flag. You have to reevaluate things; find some time for them to do something else,” he said.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard on weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon., and even Fridays from 9 to 11 a.m.

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Kids burning out on sports. Is focus on only one sport the problem?