Ask a Doc: Is it healthy for my child to play one sport year-round?

Ask a Doc: Is it healthy for my child to play one sport year-round?

Dr. Joshua Alpert, orthopedic surgeon/sports medicine specialist at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill., responds:

With school back in session, fall sports in full effect and after-school sports leagues gaining popularity, more young athletes are focusing on playing one sport year-round, the general sport consensus being the more you practice, the better you will be at your sport.

The reality, however, is that playing one sport year-round not only offers no benefit at a young age, it puts young athletes at a higher risk for injury.

It is important for young athletes to play a variety of sports to avoid overuse of the same muscles and joints and to promote a more balanced athletic experience.

The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) recently released a consensus statement on early sport specialization in The Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. “There is no evidence that young children will benefit from early sport specialization in most sports. They are subject to overuse injury and burnout from concentrated activity. Early multi-sport participation will not deter young athletes from long-term competitive athletic success.”

The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine notes that it can be harmful to play one sport all year round. In their consensus statement, a variety of physical and mental health concerns can be attributed to early sport specialization.

Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that young athletes minimize these risks by waiting until age 15 or 16 to focus on a specific sport.

In summary, as young athletes get older, it is better for their health and well-being to play a variety of sports. This will build them up as stronger, more well-rounded athletes in the sport they may want to focus on as they get into high school.

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  1. And I’d say if you value your child’s brain, avoid football. CTE is not worth the risk.

  2. Dr. Mark Neault

    As an AMG Orthopaedic Surgeon specializing in Sports Medicine, I could not agree more with the above article. It is important that not only the Athlete understands this concept, but that the Parents buy-in it as well. I spend equal time counseling Parents as I do the Athletes themselves. Unfortunately pressures from society, professional sports, coaches, etc are very strong. The fact is that spending time playing different sports thru the different seasons does prevent injury!

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About the Author

Dr. Joshua Alpert
Dr. Joshua Alpert
Dr. Joshua Alpert

Dr. Joshua Alpert is an orthopedic surgeon on staff at Elgin-based Advocate Sherman Hospital who is trained in sports medicine and arthroscopy. He is a physician with Midwest Bone & Joint Institute, which has served the Chicago area for over 30 years.