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NBA Unveils Rest, Participation Guidelines for Youth-Basketball Players

The National Basketball Association and USA Basketball unveiled a set of guidelines Monday aimed at reducing burnout and overuse injuries in youth basketball players.

In a video accompanying the release of the new guidelines, Dr. Joel Brenner, the medical director of sports medicine at the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Norfolk, Va., explained "excessive training and competition schedules" have led to a rise in overuse injuries and other issues. Thus, the NBA and USA Basketball set out to limit the amount of time youths are spending playing organized basketball on a weekly basis in the interest of their health and well-being.

The two organizations created recommendations for youth-basketball participation by age group on a weekly basis, along with maximum amounts of participation:

The NBA and USA Basketball defined organized basketball as "game competition as well as practice time and structured training in which an athlete works in a focused way (typically with or at the direction of a coach) to improve his or her game." They do not, however, consider "unstructured individual or peer-led time on court" to fall under this umbrella, so youth players would be free to shoot baskets with friends or play in pick-up games even if they reached the threshold of their age group's recommended limit in a given week.

The guidelines released on Monday also included recommendations for rest:

Notably, both the NBA and USA Basketball pushed back against youths specializing in basketball until age 14. "Playing multiple sports should not be viewed as falling behind," the two organizations said, "but rather as building the foundation of future success."

John DiFiori, the NBA's director of sports medicine, elaborated on that position when speaking with USA Today's AJ Neuharth-Keusch:

"A lot of (the concerns) seem to revolve around a fear that a child would be at a competitive disadvantage if they don't specialize, thinking about even making their high school team but also thinking about collegiate scholarships and elite travel teams," DiFiori said. "Too much of the emphasis has been on success at young ages, competitiveness and competitions, rather than the balance between sport being a good thing for health and wellness, engagement of sports in the long term promoting good health to adulthood, and participating (in sports) for the other benefits—social benefits, self esteem, leadership opportunities—rather than simply competitiveness and trying to gain an edge for some sort of future success."

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