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

Hip Dysplasia  in Young Female Athletes; The NBA Combine; Why we were Skinnier in the 80’s

Episode 17.12 with Hosts Steve Kashul and Dr. Brian Cole. Broadcasting on ESPN Chicago 1000 WMVP-AM Radio, Saturdays from 8:30 to 9:00 AM/c.

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Segment One (01:20): Dr. Joel Williams from Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush describes Hip Dysplasia, symptoms, treatment alternatives and who might be more prone to Image result for hip dysplasiahaving the condition.

Hip dysplasia, a condition where the hip socket doesn’t fully cover the ball portion of the femur, resulting in instability, is rising in young active women, who have probably had it since birth. Recent research shows that receiving care early is vital to a successful treatment experience for hip dysplasia patients.  Doing so may help patients delay or avoid having a total hip replacement (arthroplasty).

Dr. Joel C. Williams brings seven years of training and passion for complex fracture care, post-traumatic deformity, pelvis and acetabular surgery, and complex hip surgery to Rush University Medical Center.

Dr. Williams is a native of Michigan and graduated from the Michigan State University Honors Program. He then attended medical school at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. There, he was awarded a Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellowship and spent a year doing basic science research.

Dr. Williams’ surgical training began at the University of California, Davis Medical Center, where he completed his residency in orthopedic surgery. While a resident, he did a research fellowship and was awarded a grant from the Orthopaedic Trauma Association to investigate fracture healing. Additionally, he was awarded a traveling fellowship from the AO Trauma Foundation to study orthopedic traumatology in Chur, Switzerland with Dr. Cristoph Sommer. More…

Learn more about hip disorders at Hips for Life and download the Prevention Techniques Brochure

Hips for Life


Segment Two (12:26): Dr. Cole as head team physician for the Chicago Bulls discusses the various challenges related to the NBA Draft Combine and how they are dealt with in what is described as a complicated and chaotic process.

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Segment Three (17:09): Karen Malkin from Karen Malkin Health Counseling talks about why it’s harder for adults today to maintain the same weight as those 20 to 30 years ago did, even at the same levels of food intake and exercise; how to maintain a healthy microbiome/weight and how we can avoid the obesity epidemic.

  • People are exposed to more chemicals that might be weight-gain inducing. Pesticides, flame retardants, and the substances in food packaging might all be altering our hormonal processes and tweaking the way our bodies put on and maintain weight.
  • The use of prescription drugs has risen dramatically since the ‘70s and ‘80s. Prozac, the first blockbuster SSRI, came out in 1988. Antidepressants are now one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S., and many of them have been linked to weight gain.
  • The microbiomes of Americans might have somehow changed between the 1980s and now. It’s well known that some types of gut bacteria make a person more prone to weight gain and obesity.
Karen Malkin is certified as an Integrative Health Coach and Lifestyle Practitioner and a Certified Eating Psychology Coach. Karen has a private practice in Glencoe, Illinois.  She passionately serves on the Board of Directors for the Environmental Working Group, the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Spiral Sun Ventures and Gardeneer.

First-Ever National Study Shows Majority of Paddle Tennis Players Sustained Injuries Related to Playing

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The first-ever national study of platform (paddle) tennis injuries revealed 66 percent of paddle tennis players say they sustained an injury from playing the game. The study also found that of the platform tennis players reporting an injury, more than half sustained two or more.

The most common conditions reported were injuries to the shin/calf (21%), knee (16%), elbow (16%), ankle (13%) and shoulder (10%). Sixty percent of the injuries were caused by overuse and 40 percent were due to an incident that occurred during play. The study, which involved an online survey of American Platform Tennis Association players nationwide, was coordinated by Dr. Leda Ghannad, a sports medicine physician at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, with approval from the internal review board at Rush University Medical Center. More than 1,000 players responded to the survey.

“We knew it was a high-injury sport based on the number of paddle patients we treat,” admits Dr. Ghannad. “But until now, there wasn’t any research that proved this. Paddle tennis requires a mixture of speed, agility and quick bursts of energy, which makes athletes more susceptible to getting hurt. Many players are also middle-aged ‘weekend warriors’ who don’t strengthen or stretch their muscles and ligaments in between games or practices.”

Paddle tennis is similar to tennis but is played outside in the winter on a small, elevated court surrounded by a screen. Courts are heated from underneath to clear snow and ice. Most participants are between the ages of 40 and 65.


“Platform tennis is a great way to get exercise in the winter and I don’t want to discourage anyone from playing it,” explains Dr. Ghannad. “However, because of the high injury rate, it is critical to incorporate warm up exercises and prevention strategies into your routine.”


If you suffer an injury from platform tennis, call the MOR platform injury appointment line:  855-603-4141.

3 Traits of a Successful Pitcher

By Paul Kohler, MS, OTR/L, CHT for Athletico Physical Therapy

Henry Chadwick is credited with creating the first baseball statistics in the late 1800’s. To gauge a batter’s success, he formulated the batting average (hits divided by at-bats), and for pitchers, the ERA (earned runs given up per 9 innings pitched). Today, with groups like Fangraphs.com and the Society for American Baseball Research, there are mind boggling ways to analyze and predict the performance of baseball players.

No matter how you dice up the numbers, the pitcher’s ultimate responsibility is to make it difficult for the other team to score runs. This is why the ERA has become the standard measurement for a pitcher’s success, or failure. Keep your ERA low and you’re a success!  But we all know it’s not that easy. Just ask the countless number of ex-players who never made it to the big leagues. So what do the guys who make it have that the other guys don’t?

Athleticism

P.J. Finigan, pitching coach at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, puts athleticism at the top of his list when it comes to traits of successful pitchers. On Insidepitching.com he states that “having the athletic ability to consistently repeat their delivery” and having “the athleticism to be able to make mechanical changes when needed” are both characteristics that pitchers should have.

The need for this type of pitcher exists at all levels, and is important to all coaches. In scientific terms, athleticism is the equivalent of efficient kinematics and biomechanics. Slow motion video analysis has given researchers the capacity to break down the most effective and efficient pitching mechanics. This includes the pitcher’s posture at various points of delivery, appropriate stride lengths, hip rotation, balance points, as well as angles in the legs, hips, shoulders and arms.

Dr. Glen Fleisig, author of numerous studies on baseball throwing, suggests that one key to future success is training proper mechanics at a young age. As younger pitchers hit growth spurts and develop larger musculoskeletal bodies, their velocity also increases. Those who are already throwing with good mechanics are less likely to get injured, while making it easier to fine tune their delivery and focus on improving their performance.

Work Ethic

Work ethic starts with passion.  As quoted by Wayne Gretzky, “Maybe it wasn’t talent the Lord gave me, maybe it was the passion.” In his book, “the Sports Gene,” David Epstein devotes a whole chapter on the genetics of work ethic, drive and intrinsic motivation. Based on animal research, he postulates that while human drive to “work hard” is part nurture, there is a strong correlation to our genetic make-up. Although any pitcher can improve his or her performance by working with pitching and strength coaches, those who do extra work on their own will most likely outperform their competition.

Successful pitchers spend time alone fine tuning their mechanics, running for cardiovascular endurance, strength training to improve performance and reduce risk of injury, and studying other successful pitchers.  There are many quotes that characterize this type of athlete, such as “going the extra mile,” “giving it 110 percent,” “a gym rat,” “a student of the game,” etc.      

Intelligence

Yogi Berra told us that “Baseball is 90 percent mental, and the other half physical.” I didn’t like math either Yogi, so this makes perfect sense to me. As mentioned above, to be a successful pitcher you must keep your ERA low. This means getting more batters out than you let score.

The key to getting outs is keeping the batter off balance. It would be nice to strike everyone out, but even flame throwers who regularly hit 95 MPH or greater can’t strike everyone out. There are a few ways to keep batters off balance. One is to throw very hard. This decreases the time a hitter has to see the ball, and increases the chances they will not make good contact. But what if you don’t throw hard?

Other ways to keep a batter off balance include ball movement and changes in location. Having the capacity to throw a ball to the location you would like (athleticism), along with keeping the batter guessing where the ball will go next, places the advantage in the pitcher’s hands (literally). A successful pitcher will use past experiences and formulate a strategy to always keep the batter uncertain and off balance.

Stay Healthy

In addition to the traits listed above, pitchers must pay attention to their bodies and stay healthy in order to be successful at their position. Although some discomfort in the throwing arm is normal after a pitching session, this discomfort should be monitored and addressed if it doesn’t subside or becomes worse. When this occurs, it is a good idea to contact your nearest Athletico location to schedule a complimentary injury screening.

Schedule a Complimentary Injury Screen