In pursuit of success and college scholarships, children may feel pressured to specialize in a single sport beginning at a young age; however, researchers warn that this kind of approach to athletics can result in increased risk of injury with little reward.
In a study of 1,200 young athletes, researchers with Loyola University found that those who specialized in a single sport were 70 to 93 percent more likely to be injured than children who planned multiple sports.
Researchers believe this is likely due to overuse injuries. These injuries occur when a muscle or joint suffers repeated trauma due to training or technique errors. Since overuse injuries are subtle at first, they can be difficult to treat.
Additionally, researchers found that young athletes who were pushed to specialize in a single sport from a young age were more likely to burn out on sports before college. In fact, 88 percent of all athletes surveyed in a 2013 study said they played multiple sports as a child.
Researchers are now advising parents let kids focus on the fun, competition, and teamwork of sports as a whole rather than limiting them to a specific sport.
In addition to playing a variety of sports, the American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends the following: