Youth sports specialization is increasingly linked to physical injury. What about mental health?
Editor’s note: This is the second story in a two-part series on youth sports in America.
SALT LAKE CITY — Kyle Keliipuleole heard a pop.
He was 23 then, back in March 2014. He’d played soccer and baseball as a toddler and continued into childhood — just recreationally, until he turned 11 and decided to ditch rec baseball for competitive club soccer. He embraced a standard workload: two or three practices per week, two games per week, and during the summer, a tournament of up to five games most weekends.
He eventually played for Weber State’s club team. As a sophomore, he tried out for the Real Monarchs — Real Salt Lake’s reserve squad. In the second half of the scrimmage, he challenged someone. The opposing player made a move. Keliipuleole’s cleats chewed into the artificial turf; he tried to follow; most of his body went with him.
His knee did not.
“The pain really didn’t start right away,” he said. “I just put my foot down and had no stability.”
He’d torn his ACL. The standard comeback time frame, he was told, was six months. He figured with his work ethic, he could return sooner. Instead, his road to return stretched through three surgeries (his first replacement ligament became septic) and a full calendar year.