U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md. (Jan. 31, 2004) – Navy Midshipmen George O’Garro rounds Army Cadet Steve Stoll in an attempt to score during the Army Navy basketball game in Alumni Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy. The Navy Midshipmen lost to the Army Knights 52-50 for the first time at Alumni Hall since 1992. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Damon J. Moritz. (Photo : Damon J. Moritz)
A new study has shown that young athletes who specialize and train in one sport have a greater risk for serious injury than more well-rounded athletes.
The study shows that young athletes that practice more hours a week at one sport than their age, that is to say, a 14-year-old practicing 15 or more hours a week, are a full 70% more likely to suffer serious injury through "overuse" than other injuries.
Dr. Neeru Jayanthi, the medical director at Loyola University Medical Center of Chicago for primary care sports medicine, had this to say in a Loyola press release on WebMD:
"We should be cautious about intense specialization in one sport before and during adolescence...Among the recommendations we can make, based on our findings, is that young athletes should not spend more hours per week in organized sports than their ages."
A serious overuse injury is an injury that prevents an athlete from participating in sports from one to six months, or potentially even longer.
Common overuse injuries include stress fractures in limbs or the back, elbow ligament injuries, and cartilage injuries. This study followed 1,200 young athletes from age 8 to 18 who came to Loyola University Medical Center for sports physicals or injuries over a three years time. Of those 1,200 young athletes, 850 had injuries, and 550 of those were overuse injuries.
Dr. Jayanthi recommends several tips to make sure that young people do not have to go through the painful rehab therapy for these types of injuries. Athletes should not spend more time than their age playing a sport, and should spend less than twice the amount of time playing a sport as they do working out in the gym or in unorganized play. Athletes should also practice many sports until last adolescence, and take breaks from sports during the year to rest their bodies.