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Sports Injuries

06 November 2019

Playing more than one sport helps teen athletes avoid injuries

A new study found that girls who focused on a single sport had a higher rate of hip and knee injuries and an increased risk of knee pain.

Teen girls who play several sports have a lower injury risk than those who focus on just one, a new study finds.

It included more than 1 100 girls who play basketball, soccer and volleyball. Most were middle and high school students; some were in college.

Improved coordination

Girls who specialise too early in sports such as basketball, soccer and volleyball could find that a single-minded focus "may hinder motor development and lead to compromised hip and knee coordination during dynamic landing and jumping activities, which can lead to increased chance of potentially life-altering injuries", said lead author Christopher DiCesare. He's a biomechanist in the Division of Sports Medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio.

The study also found that girls who focused on a single sport had a higher rate of hip and knee injuries and an increased risk of knee pain.

Researchers said playing multiple sports may improve girls' coordination, and that those who specialise may not fully develop neuromuscular coordination patterns that can reduce the risk of injury.

Increasing emphasis on success

Due to uneven growth in bone mineral and muscular and connective tissue strength before and during puberty, young athletes may be less able than older ones to handle the physical stresses associated with focusing on one sport, the study published in the Journal of Athletic Training concluded.

"By understanding the influence that sport specialisation has on coordination and the potential for injuries, there is the potential to make better decisions of when it may be appropriate to safely specialise in a sport," DiCesare said in a journal news release.

More than 30 million young people participate in individual or team sports, and an increasing emphasis on the success has pushed many to specialise.

Image credit: iStock

 

Ask the Expert

Sports Injuries Expert

Adrian Rotunno is a medical doctor in the Sports & Exercise Medicine fellowship at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, and qualified physiotherapist. Team physician for Dimension Data pro-cycling, and Boland Rugby. Special interests include endurance sport, in particular cycling, as well as contact sports.

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