The Multi-Sport Athlete: Why Your Kid Should Play More Than One Sport

A kid playing baseball and no other sport can be at risk for injury
A child who plays only one sport risks orthopedic injuries with long-lasting effects.

You’re helping your child concentrate on getting good at baseball. Or your child’s passion for soccer rules out any other activity. Whatever the reason, your child plays one sport.

Having a physically active child is, of course, a healthy thing. But research shows that playing a single sport may not be healthy at all.

The Benefits of Playing Sports

It’s National Youth Sports Week, a recognition of all the benefits to getting kids involved in organized sports when they’re young. Children participating in sports have opportunities to enhance self-esteem, improve self-discipline, socialize with peers and develop physical and mental skills. Being active from a young age helps kids stay healthy and sets the stage for them becoming active adults.

The Risks of Specializing in One Sport

One issue with today’s young athletes, however, is the focus on specialization in a single sport. Often this happens from a very young age and may be spurred by parents’ competitiveness or belief that training intently for one sport will help their child “get ahead” or become an elite athlete. But specializing in a sport, especially from an early age, may do more harm than good.

Playing only one sport year-round may:

  • Increase the risk of overuse injuries
  • Decrease overall athletic development
  • Lead to social isolation
  • Cause burnout that results in the child giving up the sport

“Playing just one sport year round can lead to overuse injuries,” says orthopedic surgeon Mark Miller, MD. “In baseball, that may mean little leaguer’s shoulder, elbow injuries and other problems. In long distance running, that may mean stress fractures. Switching sports may allow recovery and use of different body parts and muscles that may reduce these overuse injuries.”

Overuse injuries can permanently damage children’s joints and inhibit their growth.

When Your Kid is a Multi-Sport Athlete

Participation in multiple sports can lead to better performance, according to research, and makes it more likely kids will become successful athletes in college and beyond.

According to one study of NCAA Division I athletes, 88 percent participated in an average of 2 – 3 sports as children and 70 percent didn’t specialize in a single sport until after age 12. Approximately 70 percent of NFL players were multi-sport athletes as kids.

Exposing kids to multiple sports:

  • Gives kids a chance to discover what they like about different sports
  • Lets kids enjoy playing for the sake of the game, rather than focusing only on winning
  • Reduces the chance of injury resulting from overuse or overtraining
  • Allows kids to develop skills that transfer from one sport to another
  • Provides valuable learning opportunities as kids adapt to different coaches, training styles and teammates

Encouraging your kids to play multiple sports will help prepare them for life. They’ll have more fun and become better overall athletes.

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