Monday, November 7, 2016

The Harm of Overtraining in Adolescents

by Stephanie Korso, PT
This is part two in our two-part series on overtraining.

If you have been following our blog, then you are probably already familiar with overtraining and ways to prevent overtraining, especially with regard to endurance running and weightlifting. In case you are tuning in for the first time, however, here is a brief summary of what you need to know:
  • When we train, we stress our system and then allow it to recover. This then allows our system to adapt so it can tolerate greater stress in the future. With any training program, there is a risk of overtraining.
  • Overtraining involves a loss of balance between stress and recovery. Not only does this contribute to overuse injuries, pain syndromes, and decreased performance, but overtraining can also have negative physiological effects. It can contribute to altered hormone levels, systemic inflammation, immune system suppression, excessive fatigue, poor concentration, sleep disorders, and even depression.

While it is possible for anyone to be affected by overtraining, some people are at higher risk than others. Adolescents are at high risk for overtraining because there is pressure for early sport specialization and there are increased opportunities to play on multiple sports teams (school, park district, travel, etc.). Overtraining in adolescents is especially concerning because it can affect puberty, contribute to poor academic performance, and limit socialization. Furthermore, injuries sustained during adolescence, especially if not appropriately managed, can limit sport participation throughout high school, college, and even adult life.

The best treatment for overtraining is prevention. For adolescents, the following formula is recommended to avoid overtraining: hours trained per week < years old. That means, if Kevin is 12 years old, he should avoid playing more than 12 hours of baseball each week to help prevent overtraining and its potential negative consequences.

If overtraining syndrome is present in adolescents, relative rest for 6-12 weeks is recommended. Then, as young athletes begin returning to sport, they should gradually increase activity volume before increasing intensity. If signs of overtraining reappear, then activity levels should be again be modified to allow proper recovery.