Health Spotlight: Should Your Kids Specialize In One Sport?
It’s exciting to watch your kid become an athletic star. But before you commit your child to intense training in his or her best sport, Dr. Bryan Mayol, sports medicine specialist at Indiana University Health Saxony Hospital suggests putting multiple sports into play.
Sports specialization means your child trains for more than eight months per year in a single sport. Doing this before the teen years comes with a greater risk for burnout and injury.
A lack of variety early on may hinder your child’s development of neuromuscular skills that help prevent injury. Specializing in one sport also means your child will be using the same body parts over and over again, without needed rest. Encourage your young child to explore multiple sports while he or she is still growing physically, mentally and socially.
“I see athletic injuries year-round,” says Dr. Mayol. “The injuries I see in adolescents and teenagers are often related to overuse and single-sport athletes. It’s become increasingly common for an athlete to play one sport year-round, with the intention of mastering that sport. Coaches, parents and athletes should remember our bodies were not designed for the repetitive action often required.”
Dr. Mayol adds that it is important your children are giving their bodies’ breaks and cross-training between sports seasons. This is especially crucial in adolescents because their growth plates are still open and subject to stress and strains.
Be Safe at Any Sport
No matter how many sports your child plays, Dr. Mayol recommends keeping these safety tips in mind:
• Make sure your child has a diet that meets his or her training needs. It should include the right amount of calories and nutrients, including iron, calcium, and vitamin D.
• Give your child at least three months off from a specialized sport every year, in increments of one month, to allow for physical and mental recovery.
• Ensure that your child has at least one to two days off per week from any given sport. This reduces the chance for injury.
• Always make time for stretching to avoid unnecessary strain and potential injuries.
• If an injury still hurts after 4-6 weeks of rest and anti-inflammatories, or if pain starts to occur at rest or at night, make an appointment with your doctor. When in doubt, always check with your doctor.