Making a Good Thing Better — The Healthy Sport Index & Youth Sports

I have the great privilege of taking care of many outstanding young athletes in my sports medicine clinics

Youth sports is of special interest to me — I practice pediatric sports medicine at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and perhaps 90% or more of the patients I see regularly participate in youth sports.

The topic is of great interest to this journal as well:  for example, CJSM will publish later this year a themed issue on topics in youth sports medicine, guest edited by my friend and colleague, pediatrician Alison Brooks M.D. of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM).

Youth sports has long been recognized as a valuable activity for the individuals and families who choose to participate.  An abundance of evidence points to the health benefits — physical, mental, academic — that can be achieved by children and adolescents engaging in sports.

There has been growing concern over the last decade or two (or three), however, of the potential and possibly growing risks of youth sports.  The concerns range from early youth sports specialization and overuse injuries to early professionalism. The concerns include the youth sports culture itself – a culture manifest in nightmare form by the myriad incidents of abuse seen in USA Gymnastics or Swimming.

On April 12 2019, the AMSSM will be hosting a pre-conference prior to their annual meeting, entitled the Youth Early Sports Specialization Summit (YESSS!)   Among many of the subjects up for discussion is the “Healthy Sport Index (HSI),” an instrument developed by the Aspen Institute’s Project Play initiative and made public in October 2018. The HSI was designed to help kids and families answer the important question:  what sport is right for my child?  As a physician caring for thousands of these athletes a year, I can’t tell you how often I’m posed that question.  Now there is a tool to help.

One of the physicians who served on the Advisory Group for the development of the HSI was Michele LaBotz, M.D. She is a pediatrician and sports medicine physician in a large multi-specialty group in southern Maine, who serves on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness (COSMF) and is a member of the AMSSM.  She kindly volunteered to give an overview on the HSI for the CJSM blog, and we’re delighted we can share her thoughts in the run up to YESSS!

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HEALTHY SPORT INDEX:  A UNIQUE TOOL FOR YOUTH SPORTS

Michele LaBotz MD FAAP

As health care providers, we rightfully emphasize safety and injury risk when discussing sport participation in young athletes.  We recognize the potential risks of sports that are contact vs. non-contact, or those that are high impact vs. low impact.   But, sport selection and participation is about more than just injury risk, and there is under-recognition that different sports exert a variety of influences on young athletes.  The Healthy Sport Index (HSI) presents this information in an appealing format and is a valuable resource for families and other stakeholders when considering sport-related issues in children and adolescents

HSI aggregates evidence-based data on physical activity, psychosocial effects, and safety on the 10 most popular high school sports for boys and girls in the U.S. Read more of this post

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