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Ask a Doc: Is it healthy for my child to play one sport year-round?

  • Category: Blog
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Dr. Joshua Alpert

Dr. Joshua Alpert, orthopedic surgeon/sports medicine specialist at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill., responds:

With school back in session, fall sports in full effect and after-school sports leagues gaining popularity, more young athletes are focusing on playing one sport year-round, the general sport consensus being the more you practice, the better you will be at your sport.

The reality, however, is that playing one sport year-round not only offers no benefit at a young age, it puts young athletes at a higher risk for injury.

It is important for young athletes to play a variety of sports to avoid overuse of the same muscles and joints and to promote a more balanced athletic experience.

The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) recently released a consensus statement on early sport specialization in The Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. “There is no evidence that young children will benefit from early sport specialization in most sports. They are subject to overuse injury and burnout from concentrated activity. Early multi-sport participation will not deter young athletes from long-term competitive athletic success.”

The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine notes that it can be harmful to play one sport all year round. In their consensus statement, a variety of physical and mental health concerns can be attributed to early sport specialization.

Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that young athletes minimize these risks by waiting until age 15 or 16 to focus on a specific sport.

In summary, as young athletes get older, it is better for their health and well-being to play a variety of sports. This will build them up as stronger, more well-rounded athletes in the sport they may want to focus on as they get into high school.