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Experts warn parents of intensive sports leading to burnout in children

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It's always proud for parents to watch their children shine like a star in any sport. Many kids love the excitement of playing a sport and are gradually taken over by the competitive mindset. Sometimes, they don't even realize that they have spent so many hours on their favorite sport without rest. According to experts, though youth sports can improve children's strength and stamina, doing it without rest can only cause more harm than good. A recent report by a leading pediatric group warns parents of youth sports causing burnout.

According to the report released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), injuries, overtraining and burnout are causing children to drop out from youth sports. By the age of 13, 70% of kids drop out of sports and the report found that burnout impacts 1 in 10 young athletes and nearly 35% are impacted by overtraining. The report says that the professionalization of youth sports has led to extensive training and high pressure to specialize in a single sport ultimately causing overuse injury, overtraining, and burnout in youth athletes. Joel S. Brenner, MD, MPH, FAAP, an author of the report said in a statement, "Sports are such a powerful and fun motivator to keep youth physically and mentally active, but some youth may feel pressure from parents, coaches and others to measure success only by performance."

The report emphasizes that parents must encourage kids to take two or three days' break in week from training for competitions and also ensure to have a few months off from their favorite sport to let their bodies recoup physically and psychologically. Sports medicine physician Rebecca L. Carl, M.D., M.S., FAAP who is the chair of the AAP Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness tried convincing parents of this need for a break but found that since children love being committed to their favorite sport, it was hard for them to take a break. She added, "And there’s often a big social piece - their friends are on the team." The report mainly focuses on the causes and risk factors of overuse injuries, overtraining and burnout and attrition from sports.

The physical stress caused by overuse injuries and overtraining leads to decreased performance, increased injury and illness risk, and derangement of endocrine, neurological, cardiovascular, and psychological symptoms, as per the report. However, burnout was more of a psychological component caused by the high-pressure environment in youth sports. Dr. Carl said, "We see a lot of pressure for kids to commit early to a sport and play that sport year-round." All these risk factors drive kids towards dropping out of youth sports quite early.

However, the good news is, there is an effective solution to this and it is rest. "We know that both the body and mind need a rest from whatever activity it is, no matter how much you love it," said Dr.Carl. Encouraging self-motivation in kids, better nutrition intake, adequate sleep, measuring success with participation and effort rather than cultivating the need to win and promoting sportsmanship and fun in sports are some of the recommendations experts made. Also, parents need to ensure a gradual increase in training time, be aware of burnout and overtraining, teach them mindfulness and prioritize wellness over being competitive. Practicing these can not only prevent burnout but will also let the kids follow their passion for as long as they wish to.

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