The Downside of Childhood Sports

by Wellness Editor – MH

Organized sports are a great way for children to get their recommended levels of physical activity. Unfortunately, they are not without risk, as youth sports injuries are a common occurrence in the United States. Interestingly enough, children who focus on one sport in particular seem to be at highest risk of injury. 

One Sport, Many Injuries 

This notion comes courtesy of a study published in the journal Pediatrics. The report examined five earlier studies related to this topic, allowing the authors to review data from 5,600 athletes under the age of eighteen. Depending on the study in question, anywhere from 13 to 38 percent of the subjects devoted the bulk of their energy to a single sport. 

The team examined the physical impact of a variety of sports, some of which are shown in the following list:

  • Soccer
  • Basketball
  • Tennis
  • Volleyball
  • Football
  • Gymnastics 
  • Ice Hockey
  • Lacrosse

Too Much Work? 

The injury histories of athletes who specialized in one sport were compared against their multi-sport counterparts. The team noted that those in the former category were 81 percent more at-risk of overuse injury. 

According to study leader David Bell of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the results of the study make sense when the demanding and repetitive nature of such activities is taken into account. “Being a highly specialized athlete means that you can identify a primary sport, you train more than eight months/year for that sport, and you have quit other sports to focus on your primary sport or have only ever played your primary sport,” wrote Bell in an email to Reuters Health. “Theoretically, this intensive training results in repetitive motions that result in muscle imbalances and increase injury risk.”

Perhaps the takeaway lesson for parents is to not push their children too hard when it comes to sporting activities. Or as David Bell told Reuters Health, “make sure that your child is having fun playing sports.” 

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