It’s not uncommon for kids to start specializing in one sport, year-round at an early age.
But a study by the Council on Sports and Medicine in the American Academy of Pediatrics finds those who do may be at a higher risk of injury than others who engage in a variety of activities over the course of the year.
“Youth sports culture has changed dramatically over the past 40 years. It is less common today to see a group of young children congregate in a neighbourhood to play a ‘pick-up’ game without any adult influence. The norm has become for children and adolescents to participate in organized sports driven by coaches and parents, often with different goals for the game than its young participants.”
Researchers say the danger is exposing growing joints, bones and soft tissues to the same kind of repeated stress. They also found a higher degree of emotional and social problems among one sport athletes who are often isolated from their peers and experience a loss of control over the lives.
“The risk of injury is multifactorial, including training volume, competitive level, and pubertal maturation stage. One study in high school athletes showed an increased risk of injury when the training volume exceeded 16 hours per week.”
All of these factors often leading to pain and temporary loss of playing time and, in some cases, retirement from the sport altogether.
Researchers suggest delaying specialization until after puberty (around ages 15 and 16) will minimize the risks and lead to a higher likelihood of success.
banner image; Shane Bailer via Flickr