Study Looked at Wisconsin High School Athletes
It is all too common today for high school athletes to focus just on one sport. Whether it is basketball, volleyball, soccer or another sport, students play all year round – not only at school, but also for club teams. But a recent study conducted by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and funded by the National Federation of State High School Associations Foundation discovered that high school athletes who specialize in a single sport sustain injuries to their lower extremities at a higher rate than those who play more than one sport.
I was not surprised to hear those results. When athletes play one sport the entire year, the muscles and bones involved in that sport are more stressed, leading to injuries. For example, let’s say your son plays basketball. Whether it is at practice or games, his knees take a lot of stress as he jumps for rebounds. That stress can possibly lead to knee tendonitis.
This study hit home for me not only because I see these types of injuries when working with students, but also because Weyauwega-Fremont and Waupaca high schools were among the 29 Wisconsin high schools who participated in the study.
Many athletes are under pressure from their parents, peers or coaches to pick a single sport and concentrate on getting better at it whether it is for a high school or club team’s success or the chance to play in college. Thirty-four percent of high school students in the study specialize in one sport, with girls (41 percent) more likely to specialize than boys (28 percent). Soccer was the No. 1 sport students specialized in for both boys (45 percent) and girls (49 percent).
So what should parents do? First, encourage your children to play more than sport if that is what they want to do. Try not to pressure them to select a single sport to focus on and encourage them to try different activities. Secondly, if your son or daughter only wants to play one sport, encourage them to take off some time from their sport when they can – such as the time between the club season ends and the school season starts – and cross train.
Cross-training is important for all athletes and is at the heart of all exercise programs. During cross-training, athletes do a variety of exercises. For example, a soccer player may focus on soccer-specific skills and training three days a week and then either bike, swim or do yoga the other days of the week. The goal of cross-training is to have your body work in a different way than it is used to. Cross-training not only lowers your risk of repetitive injury, but can help you improve your overall performance – something that any athlete can benefit from.
Gary Premo of ThedaCare Orthopedic Care is the licensed athletic trainer at Weyauwega-Fremont High School.