By Stephanie Stahl

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Doctors are warning about the increased risk for injuries for children specializing in one sport from a young age.

Swimming is just one example of how athletes can overuse certain body parts. For competitive swimmers, shoulders can take a beating. New research says one-sport athletes are more likely to suffer from overuse injuries.

“Basically it comes down to the fact that kids are doing too much, with too little rest time in between, and then what happens is, they break down; they don’t have the ability to get the rest they need,” said Dr. Paul Saluan with the Cleveland Clinic.

The study looked at data on more than 5,000 athletes under the age of 18.

Researchers found that in comparison with athletes who played the widest variety of sports, children who specialized in sports were 81 percent more likely to experience an overuse injury.

The types of injuries vary from sport to sport.

Experts say starting a sport at a young age can be helpful because the body adjusts to repetitive motions and the muscles used tend to get stronger. But there’s a point where too much of the same motion without enough rest can cause the body to break down.

“Think about the body parts and think about what activities are repetitive with those body parts. With swimmers, they’re beating up their shoulders; soccer players are beating up their knees pretty much, so I think you have to be aware of those body parts that are being overused and then focus on other sports that aren’t abusing those same body parts on a routine basis” said Saluan.

Doctors say children shouldn’t start specializing in one sport until after puberty, and it’s best if they play just one sport per season and take off a month or two completely. That will minimize the risks and lead to a higher likelihood of athletic success.


Stephanie Stahl