Developing young people. How much sport is too much?

March 16th 2016 |

As young people get older their body changes a lot. These changes can increase the risk of injuries or pain at different ages and stages of development. We often se young people developing ‘adult type’ injuries because they participate in too many sports and do not take adequate rest periods throughout the year. Their bodies basically are overloaded by the stresses and strains of sport. Many of the injuries that young people get can be prevented. Safe levels of training can make a huge difference to their risk of injury, enjoyment of the sport and their development within that sport.

Different sports have different recommendations on how much training is too much.

Here are some guidelines for different sports from the International Federation of Sports Medicine

(taken from Clinical Sports Medicine: 3rd edition. Brukner, P & Khan, K. 2006):

  • Responsibility for the child’s overall development must take precedence over training and competition requirements
  • The frequency, duration and intensity of both training and competition should be monitored
  • Warm up should be encouraged before training sessions
  • Cool down must be performed after training sessions
  • Any child complaining of pain, tenderness, limitation of movement or disability should be
  • promptly referred for management by an appropriately qualified clinician.

Long distance running, sprinting and jumping events

  • Training frequency should not exceed three sessions per week for those up to 14 years old
  • Those up to 15 years old can train five times per week

Throwing sports

  • Training frequency should not exceed three sessions per week for all young people


  • 10-12 years old can train 3-5 times per week
  • 13-16 year olds can train up to 9 times per week
  • However, swimmers must cross train (i.e. not just do the same thing over and over again.) They do land training for development as well as water based training.

A recent study shows the training volume of elite (and near elite) athletes. Here are some of the findings:

  • Elite athletes between 9 and 12 trained around 3 hours per week
  • Elite athletes between 12 and 15 trained around 8 hours per week

It appears that elite athletes train less than we might think. Their training is very structured towards competitions and development within their chosen field. At the clinic we often see young sports people who participate in multiple amateur sports; each to quite a high level. These people rarely take sufficient rest periods throughout the year. Like a car that has been run at very high levels or one that has done more mileage, the young people start to develop problems. A question for any family to answer is how much is too much. The young person, their family and their coach need to decide what is best for young person’s development, enjoyment and protection from injury both in the short and long term.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact any of our therapists.