Is It Healthier to Play More Than One Sport?

By Tara Hackney for Athletico Physical Therapy

Is It Healthier to Play More Than One Sport?

There is an estimated 30-45 million school aged kids playing organized sports each year.  Lately, there has also been a trend of young athletes training for sports at earlier ages and specializing in one sport with a goal of elite status. But is it healthier to play more than one sport?


What is Sport Specialization?

Sport specialization is defined as year-round training (greater than 8 months per year) for a single main sport, and/or quitting all other sports to focus on that sport. Sports specialization definitions exclude athletes who perform a high volume of intense training in a single sport throughout the year but still compete in other sports simultaneously, as well as athletes who train intensely in a single sport during parts of the year with variable year-round involvement. Although sports specialization is trending, there may be more benefits in playing multiple sports.

The Benefits of Playing Multiple Sports

Data shows that early sport diversification is more likely to lead to valuable physical, cognitive and psycho social skills for the young athlete. In fact, participation in multiple sports in developing years (ages 0-12) may lead to transfer of skills between sports. What’s more, multi-sport participation tends to result in better long term performance and an increase in lifetime enjoyment of physical activity and recreational sports participation. There is also some data indicating unorganized free play may potentially have a protective effect from serious overuse injuries.

It is important to note that the focus should be placed on strength and neuromuscular fitness for development of the entire athlete for competence, confidence, connection and character. The International Olympic Committee suggests waiting until at least puberty before committing to sports specialization. There is limited evidence to suggest that specialization before the age of 12 is necessary for adult elite performance. Furthermore, early diversification does not appear to hinder elite level participation in sports later in life.

Risks of Early Sports Specialization:

  • Burnout
    • Lack of enjoyment
    • High stress or anxiety
    • Mood disturbances
    • Decreased motivation
  • Isolation from peers
  • Lack of development of neuromuscular skills for injury prevention
  • Lack of necessary rest from repetitive use of same body part
  • Increased risk of overuse injury
  • Reduced motor skill development
  • Lost opportunity for fun

Recommendations to avoid burnout and injury:

  • Avoid over-scheduling and excessive time commitment
  • Use a valid and reliable tool to monitor signs of burnout
  • Emphasize skill development and fun
  • Provide opportunity for free, unstructured play
  • Emphasize lifelong physical activity skills
  • Avoid specialization until at least puberty
  • Limit specialized training to less than 16 hours per week or do not exceed hours per week greater than the athlete’s age
  • Good communication between coaches and parents

Staying Healthy and Active

There are many health benefits to playing sports for people of all ages. Regardless of specializing in one sport or playing many sports, it is important that athletes enjoy the time that they spend playing sports. Should an injury occur during sport, click the link below to schedule a complimentary injury screening at your nearest Athletico location.

Schedule a Complimentary Injury Screen

Juvenile Arthritis

Juvenile arthritis is the term used to describe arthritis in children younger than 16 years. Juvenile arthritis is twice as common in girls as boys and the most common type is juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is an autoimmune disorder affecting the joints of the knee, hands and feet. It causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and feeling of warmth in the joints. The probable causes of JIA include autoimmune condition, genetic factors, and environmental factors.

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TISSUE RECIPIENT FINDS STRENGTH ONCE MORE

KATRIN, RECIPIENT OF ACHILLES TENDON ALLOGRAFT

Katrin describes her injury as affecting her life in every way. The normally active athlete was playing soccer when her ACL partially tore. Not realizing the extent of the injury, Katrin continued to play sports despite the increasing pain.

“During my first surgery, a huge piece of my medial meniscus was removed and it turned out that my ACL was completely torn. Ten months later I had to have my ACL replaced in order to prevent further injuries to my knee,” said Katrin. It was before her second surgery when Katrin realized an achilles tendon from a deceased donor would be saving her knee.

Describing  herself as “flushed with drugs,” the impact of what the doctor told her didn’t settle in until later. While recovering, Katrin was focused on healing to the best of her ability. Though she describes the process as painful, this period also gave her time to reflect on her choice of using donated tissue. “I was thinking about this a lot when I made my decision to choose a tissue transplant from a deceased donor.

“I feel grateful that tissue transplants are available and that there are people who make the decision to become a donor,” Katrin said. Three weeks after surgery, Katrin began walking without crutches. Nine weeks after that, she was able to run again. “I feel very blessed to be able to continue my active lifestyle.

There is not one day when I exercise that I am not grateful for being able to do the things that my heart desires to do such as running in the morning and snowboarding on the weekends,” said Katrin. Because of the gift she received, Katrin is now an advocate for organ and tissue donaton.

“I am a registered donor and always strongly believed that this was how I could enhance and save many people’s lives when I am no longer here,” said Katrin. Though Katrin does not know the family of her donor, she often thinks of them and hopes they know what a tremendous gift they gave her.

“I know thank you is not nearly enough to show how grateful I am for their decision to donate. I want them to know that there is not one day when I start running in the morning that I do not think about how grateful I am to be able to live life to the fullest. So again, thank you.”


What is Occupational Therapy?

What is Occupational Therapy?

By Chanon Vallas MS, OTR/L, CHT for ATI Physical Therapy

Occupational therapy is a profession that helps people do the things that they want and need to do across their lifespan. The word “occupation” encompasses a wide range of daily activities. Occupational therapy interventions assist individuals with psychological and/or physical barriers that interfere with their ability to carry out their occupations independently. This could be working with a person with cognition deficits impacting their ability to problem-solve, a child with developmental delays impacting their ability to perform school work, an individual who has sustained a neurologic event impacting their ability to perform self-care, or an individual that sustained a traumatic injury to their hand and is unable to work. 

Occupational therapy practitioners have a holistic perspective, in which the focus is on adapting the environment and/or tasks to fit the person, and the person is an integral part of the therapy team. They perform individualized evaluations and develop customized interventions that are client centered with the client’s goals as the priority. They incorporate outcome evaluations to ensure that the goals are being met. Occupational therapy is an evidence-based practice deeply rooted in science.

Hand therapy is just one specialty area, out of many, in which occupational therapists can specialize and become experts. Occupational therapists can advanced their specialty by becoming certified hand therapists (CHTs). To qualify to be a CHT and sit for a board exam, one has to be an occupational therapist or physical therapist for three years and obtain hours in the field of hand therapy. CHTs partner with individuals that have sustained an injury to the upper extremity that is impacting their ability to carry out their occupations independently. Through a commitment between the therapist and client, they work together to meet the clients individual goals to achieve independence with the function of their arm.

To learn more about occupational therapy and how it might help you, visit the American Occupational Therapy Association’s website.