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how much sports practice is too much

The young gymnast and her mother were sitting across from Dr. Gregory Schmale at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Seattle.

There was no easy way for Schmale to give his news. He talked directly to the 12-year-old girl.

Your body is not cut out for gymnastics, Schmale said. The most recent injury to the girl’s wrist was severe enough to warrant not only full rest but retirement from elite competitive gymnastics.

The athlete is happy. The parent is inconsolable.

Something is wrong with that picture. Pushing the limits is part of playing sports, especially as the level of competition improves. But understanding just how far is too far is vital for parents and their sports-playing kids.

Those growth plates close up as we complete puberty. Adults and even a number of older high school athletes don’t suffer growth-plate injuries, including stress fractures and chronic joint pain.

For his part, O’Kane doesn’t think there would be such an epidemic of overtraining injuries in kids without parents and coaches pushing kids – and their limits.