Little Athletes, Big Injuries

Kids suffer when coaches and parents pile on too much training. What to watch for

Jim McIsaac / Getty

Pitching is not a natural motion, and too much of it can damage the rotator cuff in the shoulder or cause Little League elbow, a stress injury that leads to growth issues in the near term and post-traumatic arthritis later on

It ought to be hard to take the fun out of play, but if you're an overambitious parent or coach with a young athlete in your charge, you may have managed to do it. Weekly sessions of intensive muscle-strengthening, grueling push-up regimens and long intervals on fast-paced treadmills are becoming common for grade-school kids. Elite training centers that promise to give young athletes an edge during the off-season have been popping up since 2000, especially in affluent sections of New England and the Midwest.

To sports-medicine professionals, that's a worrying trend. Hard-core training can do kids more harm than good--particularly if...

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