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Sport is rich with remarkable stories of successful youth athletes: Wayne Gretzky, the ‘Great One’ of ice hockey, Alexandre Despastie, the Commonwealth Games diving gold medallist at the age of 13, and Janet Evans, the child prodigy in the swimming pool. But sadly, these legendary stories of success in youth sport do not always have such a storybook ending. All too often, youth athlete sport careers are ended prematurely by preventable sport-related injury from ill-informed training and competition regimens, or as a consequence of unrelenting undue psychological stress from unrealistic expectations and adult-induced pressures. An example—albeit hypothetical scenario—underscores a global concern in youth sports:
Sarah, like many young girls, is an aspiring elite gymnast who wanted to be just like Nadia Comanice. At 14 years old, Sarah is training at a National Gymnastics Training Centre far from home while attending a special sports school. With the advent of her adolescent growth spurt, Sarah begins to recognize the new challenges that parallel her changing body shape and accompanying alteration in her centre of gravity. Sarah and her coach notice increasing shortcomings in her ability to perform previously mastered complex gymnastic skills in all of the four gymnastic events of floor, uneven bars, beam and vaulting. In a misguided effort to control her weight increase and recent change in body shape, her coach, put her on a restricted diet and imposed daily weigh-ins before practice, so that she could regain her ‘ideal’ body composition before the judges see her compete in the National Trials in 3 weeks’ time. At the end of a 5-hour training session, while attempting to land a dismount from the bars, a very fatigued Sarah under rotates and lands with …
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