Participation in sports at a young age can provide numerous benefits to children, such as improving physical health, developing social skills, and building self-confidence. However, it is important to consider the amount of training a young athlete should undergo to avoid negative consequences and potential risks that may arise from excessive training. 

In Australia, the government’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend that children and young people (aged 5-17) should engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. However, they also state that children and young people should not engage in more than 3 hours of physical activity per day and that they should have at least two days off per week from any intense physical activity, including sport-specific training. These guidelines also emphasise the importance of appropriate rest and recovery periods, stating that young athletes should have at least one rest day per week from any structured or competitive physical activity to reduce the risk of injury and fatigue. 

According to a study published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, overuse injuries accounted for 50% of all sports-related injuries in young athletes. The study found that young athletes who trained for more than 16 hours per week were at a significantly higher risk of injury compared to those who trained for less than 12 hours per week.

Young athletes who participate in organised sports may have different training needs based on their sport and their level of competition. While some level of training is necessary to develop skills and improve performance, excessive training can lead to overuse injuries, burnout, and other negative consequences. Overuse injuries occur when a young athlete participates in repetitive activities without proper rest and recovery time, leading to strain on muscles, tendons, and bones. Burnout can occur when young athletes feel overwhelmed or lose their passion for the sport due to excessive training and pressure to perform.

Additionally, overtraining can lead to emotional stress and anxiety, which can negatively impact a young athlete's mental health. It is important to consider a young athlete's individual needs, physical limitations, and emotional well-being when determining the appropriate amount of training for them.

It is recommended that young athletes participate in a variety of activities and sports to promote overall physical and mental health. Cross-training can also help prevent overuse injuries and burnout by allowing young athletes to use different muscles and engage in a variety of activities. 

Coaches, trainers, and parents are encouraged to monitor the individual needs and progress of young athletes to ensure that they are not overtraining and are receiving an appropriate balance of physical activity and rest. Rest and recovery time are essential for young athletes to prevent injury and promote overall health and wellness. 

The appropriate amount of training for a young athlete will depend on a variety of factors, including their age, developmental stage, and overall physical and emotional health. While some level of training is necessary to develop skills and improve performance, excessive training can lead to negative consequences such as overuse injuries, burnout, and emotional stress. The Sportly platform has been developed to introduce young athletes, their parents and coaches to the concepts of monitoring and managing training load, assisting with monitoring physical and mental response to their training, incorporating rest into their schedules and promoting active recovery. Based on the data, parents, coaches, and athletes should work together to create a suitable training schedule and encourage young athletes to take breaks and rest days to promote overall health and wellness.

Written by Damien Thomson

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