As a parent, choosing to have your young child specialize in one sport is not a small decision (to put it mildly). The perceived payoffs can be blinding – a college scholarship, a trip to the Olympics, a career as a professional athlete – but it’s so important to understand the risks, and that the more likely outcome is far less glamorous.
Chicago’s Daily Herald reports, for example, that compared to kids who play a variety of sports, kids who specialize young are twice as likely to be injured. And these aren’t the kinds of injuries that can be treated with a band-aid and a kiss; they’re repetitive stress injuries that require, at best, regular visits to clinics and, at worst, reconstructive surgery. Wounds and scrapes from sport injuries may also be infected and can lead to necrotizing fasciitis if not treated properly.
Playing one sport year round puts unbelievable strain on young bodies. This is why Oakland orthopedist Dr. Kirk Jensen recommends that kids play a variety of sports until they’re 14 or 15.
So what can you do to minimize the wear and tear of sport on your kids? If your daughter loves hockey, think about taking a break over the summer. Even Wayne Gretzky took time off from “the great game.” Sign her up for baseball or soccer, something that will get her performing different movement skills than hockey.
Bike riding, backyard catch or soccer, weekend hikes, even climbing the monkey bars at the park are all ways your kids can stay active while they’re taking a rest from a sport.
We also have a whole pile of activities you can do at home that will help to build up often under-looked skills like balance that are valuable for any sport.
For extra reference, check out the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s website, Stop Sports Injuries. It has great suggestions on how you can help cut down the risk of overuse injury.