Are certain sports worse for your bones?

Are certain sports worse for your bones?

Everybody needs exercise, both those who are young and those who used to be young. In young developing bodies, the type of sport can actually affect long-term bone health.

Research published in the “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise Journal” found that multidirectional sports (MDS), such as basketball or soccer, resulted in stronger bones that were more resistant to stress injury compared to unidirectional activities like running, cycling or swimming.

The study compared bone properties of college female cross-country runners who either solely ran or ran and played MDS prior to and during their pubertal growth period. Those who participated in MDS had 10-20 percent greater bone strength.

Not only do individuals who participate in MDS have greater bone strength, but they also have a decreased risk of overuse injury compared to those who specialize in one sport. Dr. Sarah Pierotti, a sports medicine physician at Advocate Children’s Hospital, treats young athletes and sees overuse injuries frequently.

“What this study again reiterates is that specialization needs to wait, and that the emphasis of youth sports needs to be on diversification. This not only encourages the development of new skills, interaction with new peer groups and prevention of burnout, but now we know it has long-term effects on bone health,” says Dr. Pierotti.

She says overuse injuries have become more common in youth sports as pressures and expectations to perform outweigh the basic underlying goal of simply playing.

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.