Organized youth sports are highly popular for youth and their families, with approximately 45 million children and adolescent participants in the US. Seventy five percent of American families with school-aged children have at least one child participating in organized sports. On the surface, it appears that US children are healthy and happy as they engage in this traditional pastime, and families report higher levels of satisfaction if their children participate. However, statistics demonstrate a childhood obesity epidemic, with one of three children now being overweight, with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle for most children and teenagers. Increasing sports-related injuries, with 2.6 million emergency room visits a year for those aged 5-24 years, a 70%-80% attrition rate by the time a child is 15 years of age, and programs overemphasizing winning are problems encountered in youth sport. The challenges faced by adults who are involved in youth sports, from parents, to coaches, to sports medicine providers, are multiple, complex, and varied across ethnic cultures, gender, communities, and socioeconomic levels. It appears that an emphasis on fun while establishing a balance between physical fitness, psychologic well-being, and lifelong lessons for a healthy and active lifestyle are paramount for success.
Keywords: benefits; injuries; prevention; risks; specialization; youth sports.