In the olden days, it was common for kids to play one sport in the summer, another in the fall, and a different one in the winter. Of course that’s still the case for many young athletes, but there’s also a significant number of kids who pick one sport and play it exclusively all year.
“I recommend that you play the sport of the season,” says Dr. Heather Bergeson, a sports medicine physician and pediatrician at TRIA. “People who play a variety of sports not only have fewer injuries, they end up playing for a longer time.”
Still, the reality is that many parents who are looking for a competitive edge encourage their child to focus on one sport—which means the off-season ends up being fine tuning, not playing something else. But that fine tuning can be done with cross training.
“In their off-season, athletes should look for anything that uses different muscles in different ways,” Dr. Bergeson says. “For example, cross country skiing is a good cross training sport for cycling. Or dribbling a basketball can help with eye hand coordination in hockey players.”
Whatever the sport, or the season, Dr. Bergeson says it’s important to keep moving—at least 30 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous exercise.
“For kids, the rule of thumb is that they shouldn’t be exercising more hours per week than they are years old,” she says. “So an eight-year-old should not participate more than eight hours per week. Studies show beyond that time, more injuries occur.”
Injuries also occur from overdoing the sport itself.
“Fifty percent of injuries are due to overuse, which means that at least half of all injuries are preventable,” says Dr. Bergeson. “Seventy percent of kids burn out from their sport by age 13, which is really a shame. There are so many life lessons and benefits in sports. We need to keep these kids in the game.”
The bottom line: the more sports your children participate in, the more fun they’ll have, and the longer they’ll play.
Dr. Bergeson will be speaking at TEDxEdina 2018 on October 13, 2018. Her presentation is called “Let’s Change Youth Sports Culture.”