By: Dr. Matt Pennetti
It’s a common theme.
We hear it a lot in our practice.
“How much is too much for my kid to be playing?”
“Should my kid be playing all these games?”
Those are good questions, and not easy to answer.
To be considered an elite prospect, or just a prospect at all, AAU basketball is pretty much a necessity in today’s game.
I graduated from high school in 2004. Even back then it was important for recruitment.
Not partaking in AAU basketball means the athlete missed out on college coaches watching, gaining confidence against national competition, developing skills, etc.
Does the risk outweigh the benefit?
It’s no secret, playing lots and lots of basketball places a heavy demand on the body.
Requiring the player to stop on a dime, pivot, jump off one or two feet at a split-second’s notice, run full-speed, back-pedal, etc. You’d be hard-pressed to find another sport that requires so much athleticism.
However, ALL sports place demand on the body.
Take baseball for example…
This sport requires the athlete to use the body as a whip to generate as much force as possible to fire a baseball at top speed. And this motion is typically only done on one side of the body.
There is never a countering move for the opposite side of the body.
This imbalance over time can lead to significant injury, hence all the Tommy John surgeries we’re seeing. Golf, tennis, and swimming all have their own set of physical stressors.
Basketball, if the athlete so chooses, can be more evenly balanced on both sides of the body-by learning to play with both right and left hands.
However, this doesn’t take away from the force that is generated each time the player’s feet land on the hardwood after going for a rebound, or his/her body gets hit during a box-out.
So, we must understand that there will be physical stress on the body when playing basketball, as well as any other sport.
Commit this to memory:
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s continue discussing the main concern…
Is AAU Basketball harming your kid?
The amount of time and games being played is significantly more than what I participated in as a kid.
But I played college basketball.
And that was way more intense and grueling than anything I experienced playing AAU ball or high school.
With the late-night travel, 10-hour bus rides, lack of sleep, 2 and sometimes 3-practices a day, poor quality of food on road trips and at school, questionable healthcare practices from professionals employed by the sports program, etc., just to name a few.
My point is this…if your child has any aspirations of playing high-level basketball, there will be a toll on their body.
That’s the unfiltered truth.
Now, let me address the biggest mistake parents make when assuming their kid is breaking down due to AAU ball.
Because, I agree that just playing basketball can be harmful.
But so is sitting at a desk in school for 8-hours per day.
What else would your kids be doing?
I don’t like to generalize, but the stats are pretty clear…
If kids aren’t participating in a sport, they’re on their phones, iPads, computers, or playing video games.
Sitting is by far the most harmful activity to a young athlete’s development. This creates shifting in their structure, imbalance in their muscles, and negatively affects how their nervous system functions.
Lost are the days when little Johnny would be outside playing in the dirt, street, trees, etc. until it’s time to come in for dinner.
Nowadays, kids go downstairs, get online and play Fortnite or NBA 2K with their buddies.
So, what’s the answer?
The answer is make sure your kid is playing!
Put the phones down, put the video games away, and get outside.
Play some Wiffle ball, golf, bowling, badminton, or climb on things and build stuff.
It doesn’t need to be complicated, just get away from the screens and add variety.
Does this mean your kid should stop playing AAU ball?
Just make a conscious effort as a parent to get your kids active in things outside of basketball.
They don’t necessarily need to be on another team.
They just need to be doing other things that don’t require them to jump off two feet or hold a follow-through.
The early specialization in sports is a major problem.
But it’s not because they are specializing in one-sport.
It’s because they do very little other than workout with their trainer, practice, play games, go to school, and play video games.
Where is the other stuff?
Where is the time spent on other movement-based activities (walking, playing outside with friends, Wiffle ball, climbing trees, tag, etc.)?
Where is the time spent on reducing the imbalances in the body?
Remember, sports are physically demanding.
All sports require athletes to contort their bodies in order to be more effective. The manipulation of their bodies is ultimately what creates stress and imbalance.
This occurs at the YMCA, AAU, high-school, college, and professional levels.
If your kid wants to be healthy and stay that way, then addressing these imbalances before they get too out of hand is crucial.
Dr. Matt Pennetti grew up in Denver, CO. He played D2 NCAA Basketball at Western State in Colorado. During his senior year of college, he began suffering from Cluster Headaches. The only thing he found to get him back on the court was Neuro-Structural Chiropractic.
Because of this experience, he became a Chiropractor himself. He now practices in Greenwood Village, CO with his wife. They own and operate the only Neuro-Structural Restorative clinic in the state called Prime Chiropractic.
His passion is helping to guide athletes and their families to better health and performance. And he’s always looking for ways to keep himself connected to the game of basketball.