With school back in session it means fall sports are underway. Many athletes are returning to practice while others are continuing to train for their winter or spring sport. The current trend across the country is sports specialization by high school athletes even though research is beginning to show that those who specialize in one activity are at a greater risk for overuse injuries. In fact, nearly half of all injuries to middle- and high-school athletes are overuse injuries. And on top of that, one study found that 49% of specialized athletes suffered an injury while only 23% of multi-sport athletes suffered an injury over a 12-month period.
Having a favorite sport is not a problem, but playing one for 8-12 months is. Doing the same motion over and over, such as serving a tennis ball or throwing a baseball, causes continuous stress on the same muscles and joints. Playing multiple sports, however, works new muscles while giving others the chance to properly recover. Health is the number one reason for athletes to play multiple sports, but it’s not the only one.
Avoiding Sports Burnout
Regardless of the athlete’s age, playing a single sport year-round can easily result in sports burnout. This can lead to athletes quitting a given sport in their high-school years and even giving up athletics all together. Playing multiple sports switches up the routine of an athlete, allows them to become more well-rounded athletically, and gives them a break from a sport that may be fun now, but can get old quickly.
Finding New Interests
Especially for younger athletes, trying multiple sports exposes them to new interests. It’s not always going to be a success, but finding a secondary sport at a young age increases the likelihood of that athlete continuing at least one sport through their high-school career. Also, participating in and training for multiple sports keeps athletes in better shape and exposes them to a lifestyle emphasizing continual fitness and well-being.
Strengthening Cross-Sport Skills
The skills necessary for one sport are rarely constricted to that one activity. Many sports build up skills that apply to other activities, such as endurance, hand-eye coordination, balance, communication, and agility among others. Not only will they stay in better shape during the off-season, but athletes will find they can improve common skills by participating in multiple activities, and ultimately improving their performance in their primary sport.
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