Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Hey Junior

This is a tough topic. Basically, I question whether we should be extending Ultimate to juniors.

Pictured Above: This is my University team, Torontula, which finally won the Canadian Nationals this year. Bottom Left to Right: Norman Farb, Peter Jamieson, Pat Dolan, Dante Reino, Steve Tam, Justin McComb, Tim Chapman-Smith (behind), Shawn Chua, Nathan Brown (behind), Taylor Martin, Shimon Pokorny, Tolya Vasilyev. Back Row from Left to Right: Scotty Nicholls, Will Yan, Marcius Extavour, Inian Moorthy, Alex Schneider, Dave Ng, Adrian Yearwood, Kirk Nylen, Sasha Necakov, Malcolm Johnston, Lowell Heppner.

So, why would I even bring up a topic like this. I guess it all comes down to the physical wear and tear that Ultimate takes on the body. Then I think about juniors that I've seen come through the ranks with excessive injuries.

My first question is how does the body impact in Ultimate compare to existing highschool sports. The sample set I'm going to look at includes basketball, volleyball, track, soccer, and badminton. I've chosen this set because I'm most familiar with these sports.

If I were to rank these existing sports from worse to best in terms of body strain where an athlete competes, trains, and plays in the sport for 6 months I would say:
  1. Track
  2. Soccer
  3. Basketball
  4. Volleyball
  5. Badminton
My opinion is that track is the worse since it tends to push athletes too much. Before even addressing the other sports when I compare track to Ultimate I find similarities in the pushing of the body to extremes. In addition to the risk of all out sprints, Ultimate adds cuts and layouts to the fold, and even worse the layout. Both of these elements exist in soccer, but I find soccer doesn't have the full field runs that Ultimate has. Instead, a soccer player plays a more of a zone like position both on defense and offense.

I guess, I feel that Ultimate has higher intensity and body limit push compared to existing sports that I've listed. The next question is how does this affect the body of someone who hasn't fully grown yet (maybe we will address these similar issues with an older body).

Some information I've looked at (sample) describes some of these issues in relation to overuse and the risk with young bodies. I wonder if the increased intensity of a sport has any correlation to overuse injuries in young athletes.

Personally, I think Ultimate is currently a great choice as an after highschool sport or even college. Howeve, it's nice to have a sport that has organization and competitive levels in which adults can find a new love for a sport. I'm sure not many people have the opinion's I have in this topic. I'm aware there are many benefits in Ultimate for young people, and college teams are looking more and more for the already trained Ultimate athlete. Maybe we just need to address my concerns with proper approach to young people's Ultimate.



higy said...

I have to completely disagree. Juniors can get hurt playing hockey, guess it's too dangerous for them to play. Oh wait, basketball can get rough too. That's out.

Where do you draw the line?

Sticks said...

I disagree with higy.

Basketball as a sport has many more rules about contact than Ultimate, to the point where any sort of incidental contact is a foul, thereby making players much more careful than in Ultimate, where there is quite a bit of reckless play.

Hockey and let's add football (American style), are sports where a player is expecting a hit. In football, as soon as a receiver grabs the ball, he comes down with the expectation of contact; same with hockey, the player is prepared for the contact. In addition, they wear pads…

Ultimate however is a non-contact sport, so a player going up for a disk does not have a contact ready mind and body set. If you were expecting a hit you wouldn't jump with a full, balls-out, extension. Instead you would jump in a more compact, impact ready position. This change in position is, as I see it, the biggest cause of injury out on the ultimate field. Normally an elbow to the back hurts a bit, but when you are fully extended stretching your body out for maximum vertical, the natural cushioning of your body is more spread out over the now increased surface area of your body, thus, the impact causes more damage.

Rahil said...

Higy, I don't think Peter meant for it to be based on whether you can get hurt(playing a sport) or not. I think peter was trying to point out the amount of wear and tear that happens in ultimate compared to other sports, is bad for a growing boy or girl.

I must admit Peter that I never ever though of this point of view, while I share your concerns it leads me to the question, how much of a sport do you envision ultimate becoming. In all sports theres a trend to get younger, in the NHL, you have the 18-19 year old phenoms, in the NBA, they instituted a cap on what age a player can start playing in the NBA, tennis, especially womens tennis, if you're 22, you're over the hill and even in the premiership, the trend is towards younger, "gifted" and more "athletic" footballers.

So as soon as ultimate becomes available in the olympics, or there is a certain recognition for the sport by main stream media I believe more and more young players will get involved.

lexanator said...

As an injured Jr., I am an addition to the statistic of which Peter is talking about. However, I feel that playing ultimate as a Jr. was such an amazing experience that not only gave me a leg up in University ultimate but also taught me some life lessons of spirit and teamwork that I would not carry today had I recently started the sport. Because of my personal experience, I feel that Jr. ultimate is an amazing thing to have in place, especially in those crucial years of personal growth.

There is no doubt that ultimate is an intense sport for the body to handle and is now rated the #1 ACL tearing game. That is something to pay attention to. There are other sports that I feel can create greater damage than broken limbs and torn ligaments, where the athletes are trained as early as ages 3 & 4. My examples are Ballet and Gymnastics. Both sports have high level injuries, similar to ultimate. What scares me is the molding ones physicality that occurs to those participating. Until I see that same degree of body manipulation from ultimate, where it can become limiting in many areas of life, I'm not too worried.

Taylor said...

Overuse and long term injuries like ACL are definitely a problem in the sport. The question of differing impact on young vs old bodies is a good one. Thinking back to this summer, the majority of injuries due to wear and tear (shin splints, groin strains, etc) were had by the younger guys who hadn't quite reached the "man" body type. The old guys generally suffered from old injuries (perhaps leftover from when they were young?). Just an observation.

Would playing coed in high school be a better idea, based on the lower intensity (more zone ds, slower game)?

higy said...

I still have to disagree with everyone here.

Sticks-if contact is your problem, then what about a junior league where size differences are less severe? Numbers might not be there yet in all cities, but that will come.

As for everyone else, sports are dangerous. People are going to get hurt NO MATTER WHAT THE SPORT. But sports bring far more good than bad, especially in kids.

How much have childhood obesity rates risen in the last 10 years? Are you still saying that juniors shouldn't play Ultimate a "non contact", high cardio activity?

I just don't see the problem.

Jeters said...

Hey Folks,

Seems we've hit on a topic of intrest. I guess I'll address some of these points.

To higy, I agree that you can get acute injuries in all sports, and arguably you get more acute injuries in contact sports like hockey and football. The question I address here is the wear on the body which will cause disabling injuries in the future. For example, pro hockey athletes suffer in their knee joints for life. My feeling is that ultimate wears down the body, and playing as a junior will accelerate this. Instead, I feel that there are many other sports to play when you're young that aren't as hard on the body.

To Sticks, I agree with your contact points, though I would argue basketball is a very high contact and aggressive sport.

To Rahil, I'd argue we just have to wait and see. As money gets involvved and a sport goes pro there will always be a further push to get people in the game sooner to find out who's got it and who doesn't.

To Lexi, sure the sport is great, and we all know that. The question is what is the tradeoff in body damage versus the other external benefits. I also agree some other sports are highly dangerous and what they do with gynastics and other sports is not good.

To Taylor, you make a good point on the difference in injuries. That's probably a good topic to look to in the future.

To higy, I agree that we want kids doing athletics. I guess we differ on opinion, but I'm glad to see you made this a topic of value, and maybe the discussion will continue.

Thanks Folks,

Anonymous said...

The reason ultimate feels like such a strain on the body is because at any given level of competition (nationally, regionally, locally competitive) the quality of athelete playing ultimate is a lot lower than most other sports.

Juniors ultimate is supposed to fix that.

Am I wrong?


Jeters said...

TO Mike, I wouldn't say Ultimate athletes are that far from non-elite. If you polled many of them you would probably find that at the top levels they were a top athlete in high-school and many were varsity athletes in college/university.

It's the nature of a sport that demands constant physical sprinting and cutting.


Anonymous said...

What do you mean by the quality of athlete playing ultimate? Most ultimate players either were or still are serious soccer, football, or hockey players, so their fitness is just as good.

To the original topic at hand, I believe it would be good to start playing ultimate at a young age, but that players should not be pushed by coaches to go all out and push themselves. I realize that, as soon as competition is introduced, there will be parents and coaches who want to push the kids, so the answer seems to be to limit competition. Play the game for fun, as it was intended. But then when the game increases in popularity, people with want and create tournaments and competitions.

I don't see this issue being resolved any time soon, but I still think that getting juniors involved in ultimate is a good thing. Parents just need to be aware of the possible dangers associated with it. Then again, parents are aware of the dangers of pushing a 4 year old to train in gymnastics, but many parents still do that. However, just because some people could use it as a bad thing, doesn't mean it shouldn't be allowed. Either way, as more people start to play ultimate, more people will start to play it younger, and I for one think it's a good thing.


Taylor said...

"However, just because some people could use it as a bad thing, doesn't mean it shouldn't be allowed."

Sounds like we're talking about nuclear capabilities.

Anonymous said...

Exactly Pete!

The best college atheletes go pro, and of the rest, some of them go on to play elite ultimate. And so on down the line. Any sport that has third or fourth dibs on players is going to be disadvantaged at every teir down to summer rec league, when's it's basically a wash anyways.

Another reason it seems there are more injuries in ultimate may be because players come to it later in life, so at a given level of competition the players are older and worn out from other sports. Not an issue with juniors.

The point is, there's plenty of reasons why ultimate may seem more injury-prone that have nothing to do with how badd-a$$ we all are. Let the kids play!

Anonymous said...

There's is absolutely no doubt in my mind that ultimate offers more wear-and-tear than any of the other sports I've played. I'm 18 and I've been involved in more sports than I can count since I was four. I have had maybe 2-3 big injuries playing years of full contact hockey and lacrosse (as well as giving up an average of more than 20 pounds to the rest of the players), and after one summer of touring I've got 2 MRIs under my belt, and a whole other laundry list of injuries, including bringing back all of my old injuries with a vengeance.

That being said, high-school ultimate, as well as playing for ROY and some TUC teams is some of the most fun I've had. I don't know what I would do without an ulti fix a few times a week, but it's brutal on the body. I agree that we need to look into the effects this might have on a growing body. Kids learn how to take hits and protect themselves in contact sports and soccer players don't push there body other than cardio.. in ultimate, your biggest foe is the ground your stomping and landing on.. and it'll do more damage than any 220 lbs guy laying a shoulder into ya.


As a side note, I've never played (American) Football, but I'm sure they have the same kind of wear-and-tear as ultimate players do (roughly), and I certainly wouldn't endorse that sport for the wee ones. Although I would still endorse juniors ultimate.

Cynthia said...

Wow... so much I could say on this topic... but my gut feeling is that ultimate is a safe and competitive sport for juniors too.

Many runners, swimmers, basketball, soccer and hockey players - really every sport, have either had adult influences who have pushed them beyond their physical boundaries with no respect to their future health, and/or many athletes in these sports have highly addictive personalities that makes them obsess over their sport and to train beyond what is physically healthy. These factors can really cut the longevity short for aspiring athletes, but they do so in every sport...

However, many junior athletes are also nurtured and supported by people who know their sport initimately, or know enough about sport psychology to prevent situations where the athlete's longevity could be shortened. But again, this isn't unique to ultimate, it is the same for any sport.

But... if you want to eliminate ultimate, then you would need to eliminate almost every other competitive sport as well. There are hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have improved for the better because of their participation in sport.

What I love about ultimate is the personal accountability of knowing the rules of the sport you play, and actively engaging in decisions that impact the game. What makes Ultimate unique is this DIRECT application between sport and life-outside-of-sport. I think this kind of accountability is something that is lacking in many youth (and adults too unfortunately) today.

As a middle school teacher, I know this is something kids struggle with, but when they take it on and own it, they can do positively brilliant things. I think juniors are many times underestimated in terms of what they are able to handle and take on.

So although, as Ultimate gets increasingly more competitive at a younger and youger age level - I think that the physical concerns shouldn't be ignored, but neither can the highly significant emotional gains.