Today, professional athletes are looked upon as not only inspiration and role models, but as a goal in life. Something as simple as going to sporting events and seeing how an athlete resonates with their fans, can have a huge impact on a child to want that same lifestyle.
The age for children to start competitive team sports is as young as kindergarten. This gives that athlete over a decade of skills so they can attain that dream of athletic fame. Here is where injuries come in. It happens, and it happens all the time. The toll of high-injury sports creates a vicious cycle of playing, pain, and medical treatment for relief that has led athletes to abuse medication. When the overuse of drugs like Tylenol and Aspirin don’t cut it, opioids are introduced.
In 2018, The opioid crisis exceeded prior epidemics, including AIDS, and was deemed a public health emergency by the President of the United States. More than 140 Americans were dying daily from an opioid overdose according to the Centers for Disease Control.
This might not seem to have much to do with young athletes, but high intensity sports produce a high number of severe injuries needing longer than wanted recovery time. Between 2006 and 2013, surgeries for sport-related injuries in youth increased by 55 percent (1). In another study, opioid prescriptions for adolescents doubled between 1996 and 2007 (2).
As these athletes age, their perseverance and competitive nature do not go hand in hand with time needed for injuries to heal. For example, a study of youth participants stated football and wrestling have approximately 50% higher odds of nonmedical use of opioids compared to same-age students who did not participate in these sports. Male athletes were twice as likely to be prescribed painkillers and four times as likely to misuse or abuse their prescriptions.
I’m not saying that all youth athletes will misuse prescription drugs, I’m not saying all athletes will become famous either. I’m just saying that as a mom of four youth athletes, I have been the one to give Tylenol and Aspirin to fix a hurt. I have taken them to the hospital numerous times and then given them prescription drugs because the pain was bad enough to warrant it. I am sure that everyone would agree with me when I convey that all of us parents of athletes just want to support our children and do what is best for them.