When it comes to developing young talent in sport, less is more.

That was the message from elite strength and conditioning coach Sunesh Singh after recent figures from ACC showed more children are suffering serious injuries like those seen at the top level of the sports.

Last year the Accident Compensation Corporation received 69 claims for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries from 10 to 14-year-olds in what it calls the seven key sports - basketball, football, gymnastics, netball, rugby league, rugby union and touch.

In 2008 there were less than five ACL claims from this age group.


Singh, who works with the likes of Sonny Bill Williams, Kayla Cullen, Quade Cooper and Israel Adesanya, believed the injuries were a result of young athletes being pushed too much.

"There's no real structure behind it," he told the Herald. "They think you've got to do all of these things to try and make it to the top, but in essence less is more. Do that, tick it off and carry on.

"They must understand the body is constantly growing, especially at that 11 to probably 17-18 age, you're just developing, developing. If you rush that process, while trying to grow, you're going to have all sorts of injuries. There needs to be more education for parent and coaches that are working with that young age group; you need to take it back a little bit.

Between 2008 and 2017, ACC claims for 10 to 14-year-olds in the seven key sports rose by 60 per cent, while claims in other sports increased by 41 per cent in the same time.

However, there was a 40 per cent decrease in the "other claims" category, making the overall rise in claims a modest 16 per cent. ACC told the Herald the figures reinforced its claim last week that a big increase in sporting injuries among young people could be explained by over-specialisation in major sports at too young an age, rather than any other factor such as larger playing numbers.

In elite sports, injuries are a part of the job. Singh said if young athletes are going to be training like top athletes and beginning to specialise in a specific sport at an early age, coaches and training staff needed to act accordingly.

"It comes down to coaches paying attention to that now these kids are doing a lot, they are trying to be the best so stop everything, break it down, and spend more time on injury prevention work. Looking at stuff that's causing the actual issue…break it down and let's work on that."