Playing sports has positive benefits for your child’s physical and social development. However, we explain why athletic diversity is safer and more healthful for young athletes than early specialization in a single sport.
As the weather turns crisp, families build time into their schedules to drop young athletes off for practice and cheer them on at school games. There are many excellent reasons to support athletic activities for children between the ages of seven and 18. Athletic activities boost physical development and foster social skills. However, research tells us that it’s safer for children to participate in multiple sports than it is for them to join the trend toward early specialization in a single sport year-round.
Researchers found that when young athletes, between seven and 18 years of age, specialize in a single sport, they are one and a half times more likely to be injured, and more than twice as likely to experience a serious overuse injury, compared to children who participate in a number of different sports through the year. Although specialization may seem like a good idea, there are several reasons why children are better served by steering clear of a single sport:
- During adolescence, children’s bones and muscles are still developing. Playing a single sport can put too much repetitive strain on certain areas of the body. Meanwhile, other parts of the body are ignored. This imbalance can lead to overuse injuries.
- All of us need a recovery period after physical exertion. This is particularly true for children, who need one to two days off from sports every week. A good rule of thumb for sports participation is that a child’s age should determine the weekly number of hours spent playing sports. An eight-year-old should play sports for no more than eight hours each week.
- Diversification in sports activities also reduces the possibility that a child will burn out on a single sport and leave sports completely.
- Playing a single sport may hone the skills that sport requires, but it doesn’t necessarily develop the motor and anticipatory movement skills that make for a well-rounded athlete.
- If your child aspires to an athletic scholarship, the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine reports that diversified sports training during adolescence may be more effective in developing elite athletic skills.
Athletic activities can deliver a variety of developmental and psychological benefits for your child. Multiple sports allow children to explore different roles and develop well-balanced physical skills while reducing the risk that they will be sidelined by an overuse injury.
Summit Orthopedics offers comprehensive sports medicine expertise
From Olympians to pro athletes to kids in youth sports and those that just want to be more active—Summit Orthopedics delivers expert care by fellowship-trained sports medicine physicians. If you are recently injured or concerned about ongoing pain, Summit Orthopedics sports medicine specialists have the expertise to evaluate your discomfort and develop a plan to quickly and safely help you get back to being active.
Start your journey to stronger, healthier athletic condition. Find your sports medicine expert, request an appointment online, or call us at (651) 968–5201 to schedule a sports medicine consultation.
Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, Plymouth, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as several additional community clinics.