The dangers for one sport athletes


In today’s world of ultra-competitive children’s athletics, there is more and more pressure on parents and kids to begin specializing in one sport at a very young age.  While it may seem like choosing one sport and sticking with it will give an athlete an advantage, we are finding out more and more specialization does not necessarily lead to better performance.

In addition, it also puts these young athletes at much higher risk of injury.  In fact, in our physical therapy clinic we are seeing athletic injuries in younger and younger age groups all the time.

Think of it this way, a child and teenager’s body is constantly changing and growing. We can all remember those awkward phases growing up when it just seemed like our bodies just didn’t seem to work well.

If you can’t remember, just go watch school letting out from any local middle or high school. You will certainly see heads bobbing, feet scuffing and backs swaying as these adolescents make their way to any number of sports practices. As they ‘grow into’ their bodies they need to experience a variety of movement to use all their muscles.

If instead of variety, a child is exposed to the same movement over and over again their ‘awkward’ movement patterns may worsen. Balance is the key to life. But for one sport athletes they use only certain muscle groups over and over again in the exact same way.

Health & Fitness ReportThis leads to tightness of some muscles and excess length of other. It leads to one set of over developed muscles that over power their weaker counterparts.  This imbalance is leading to more and more injuries.

Still not convinced then remember what it was like when you were growing up. Chances are you didn’t go to physical therapy for aching joints or strained muscles as you were playing sports. Most likely you played different sports in different seasons, and a lot of times you probably just made up your own games. Playing different games was protective for you because you used different muscles in different ways.

The idea of challenging your body in different ways is not a new one. Consider basketball history.  James Naismith was approached to create a game that could be played in between football and baseball seasons. The thought was not let’s play MORE football and baseball. The thought was we should be playing something else altogether.

Several pro athletes are adding their voices to the chorus for delaying single sports specialization. JJ Watt of the Houston Texans tweeted “Single-sport specialization amongst youth today is troubling. Let kids be kids. They’ll become better all-around athletes & have more fun.” When a pro-bowler, future hall of famer, athlete at the pinnacle of human performance speaks out, maybe we ought to listen.

Let your kids play a myriad of sports. Specialization at a young age is not necessary.

Article by Scott Moreland, DPT. Scott is a physical therapist and movement specialist at CORE Strategies Physical Therapy, Sport Performance & Medical Fitness located in Overland Park..  The CORE team specializes in rehabilitation and performance training for clients of all ages and activity levels.  To learn more about CORE’s sport specific programs visit  Contact Scott at

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