Young athletes are often pressured at an early age to commit to a single sport. Many (parents included) believe that there are advantages in choosing a sport early so that specialization and skill development can bolster progress and accuracy and launch these athletes into elite playing zones resulting hopefully in champions.
A recent CBC interview with Dr. Sasha Carsen, an orthopedic surgeon at Ottawa’s Children Hospital, alleges that growing athletes need to maintain a broad use of their muscles groups, rather than continually overworking the same groups.
“Not having the opportunity to use other muscles and other elements of the body, and above and beyond that, not having the opportunity for the body to rest from the sport… especially during the developmental years, can have an adverse effect and may cause more harm than good.”
In Canada, many young athletes fall in love with a sport at an early age and dream of nothing more than being a pro one day; some will spend the better part of the year playing, practicing, even attending summer camps. Dr. Carsen says kids who specialize in a single sport are actually exposing their growing joints, bones and soft tissues to repeated stresses, which can in turn cause damages to skeletal development, placing them at risk for arthritis and other debilitating conditions.
The key to resisting adverse results is to ensure the young athlete gets plenty of rest and that different muscle groups are being used so a variety of skill sets are being developed. Young athletes are subject to burnout, high stress and physical injuries which can play negatively into their mental health.