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Youth sports: Former college pitcher’s message to young athletes

For many young athletes, it's a whole new ball game. Take injuries, for example, research out of UC Davis found nearly half of all injuries in middle and high school athletes come from overuse. Meaning kids are pushing their bodies to the limit.

If someone would have told Ben Guidos that his years spent on the baseball field as a kid would impact his mobility later in life, he probably would have shrugged that off.

Guidos played five years for the University of Washington baseball team and says looking back he would have taken care of his body better at a younger age adding, "I dealt with knee pain more than my elbow surgeries. After five knee surgeries that’s what really hinders me at age 30 now.”

A scar on Ben's elbow is from the Tommy John surgery he had after his senior year in high school.  An injury Ben believes he could have prevented.

Guidos says,  “they told me that there could be a number of different causes for the injury. For it to go as long as it did with me pitching in pain was a big part of the issue."

When it comes to overuse injuries in youth sports, Ben isn't alone and it's not just baseball according to Dr. Steven Anderson, a sports medicine physician in Seattle.

Dr. Anderson says,  “you see it in soccer where they could be playing on multiple teams or baseball (which) is year-round and even things like football. So the more you do, the more likely you are to have overuse injuries. Things like tendinitis and stress fractures."

Dr. Anderson says most injuries start when kids begin playing organized sports as early as 4 or 5-years-old.   He warns that pushing a young body to the limits too soon may backfire adding that a hotshot pitcher on a little league team may use up his arm before he even gets to high school.  He says overuse injuries can also impact growth and lead to chronic pain later in life.

Instead, Dr. Anderson recommends kids rest injuries and play multiple sports.

Despite his success on the baseball field, Ben says his message for young athletes at the beginning of their journey would be to take care of your body.

"Keep the big picture in mind. You may think what’s in front of you today is the biggest deal for you. You may change your passion two or three times, but don’t take anything too seriously. It is a lot of fun. Work on getting better and build relationships and success will come."

All this week, Q13 is taking a closer look at youth sports, from club and select teams, to participation and injuries.