One question I'm getting a lot as I do the book-talk thing around the country in support of Until It Hurts is: Why do you blame yourself? It's a reference to Ben's elbow injury, a classic case of overuse, and our family decision for him to undergo Tommy John surgery so that he could return to baseball.
I do flog myself a bit in Until It Hurts, mostly for falling in like with his pitching arm when he was a rec league phenom (I was his coach). I also point a finger at myself in a piece about a father's pride and a kid's injury that I wrote last month for the New York Times.
The last thing I want is to turn this into a pity party for the author. The hope is for our family story to be seen as a cautionary tale, one that might alert parents to the real and present danger of overuse injuries. Many of us are pretty clueless when it comes to connecting the dots between a child who's overdoing it and the serious injuries - stress fractures, growth-plate injuries, in my son's case, ruptured tendons - that occur three to five years down the road.
I remember chatting about this with Lyle Micheli, a prominent sports doc who started the first clinic for kids with sports injuries at Children's Hospital in Boston. I asked Dr. Micheli if parents generally understood the role they played in a child's overuse injury.
"In the majority of the cases, the parents do not feel responsible. In retrospect, some will say, 'Maybe he was doing too much.' But it is very rare for parents to say, "It was our fault. We pushed too hard."
So, once a kid is injured, do parents accept Micheli's advice to dial down the intensity?
"To the extent they think it will make the kid better and get him back to his sport, yes," he told me. "And by the way, they want the right answer from me. Which is [one that returns a child] to playing as soon as possible."
Sure. Yet most of us wouldn't think of letting our kids ride a bike without a helmet. Go figure.