The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says the focus of sports for young kids is fun and activity, not specialization and achievement.
When children focus on only one sport all year, there can be an increased risk of injury and burnout. The clinical report, authored by Dr. Joel S. Brenner and the AAP Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, advises parents and pediatricians to encourage young athletes to have fun and learn lifelong physical activities. They advise allowing children to play multiple sports until puberty.
When young athletes specialize in a sport in their late teens, it may be a better way to accomplish their goals rather than specializing early. The odds of remaining involved in sports over a lifetime, as well as continuing physical fitness and participation in elite teams are increased when specialization is delayed, the report concludes.
“As they note, early specialization is in most instances unnecessary and can contribute adversely to social, emotional, and physical (eg. chronic over-use injuries) development,” said Shane V. Caswell, professor of athletic training at George Mason University in Manassas, Virginia. Caswell was not involved in the report.
“This article highlighted the darker side of youth sports, the overuse injuries that we’re seeing from children simply doing too much,” said Dr. Avery Faigenbaum, professor at The College of New Jersey. Dr. Faigenbaum researches exercise interventions in public schools.