Young Athletes Should Play for Fun to Reduce Injury
Fun may be just what the doctor orders to help young athletes reduce injury, according to a new study out of Loyola University Medical Center.
Sports medicine specialist Dr. Neeru Jayanthi and his colleagues found that young athletes who spent a disproportionate amount of time playing a single sport, such as tennis, over other sports and recreation were more likely to face injury than an athlete with a more balanced approach.
Of the 891 young athletes followed for the study, 618 were seeking treatment for sports-related injuries. The other 273 were uninjured and simply seeking sports physicals. Tennis players made up 124 of the participants, including 74 who played tennis exclusively.
Injured tennis players spent an average of 12.6 hours per week playing competitively and only 2.4 hours per week on free play and other sports. Compare this to the uninjured players who spent 9.7 hours per week playing competitively and 4.3 hours on free play and other sports.
Despite playing similar amounts per week, injured athletes played more than five times as much competitive tennis as they did playing it and other sports for fun, while uninjured athletes only racked up 2.6 times as much competitive play.
“Our findings suggest that more participation in a variety of unorganized sports and free play may be protective of injury, particularly among tennis players,” Jayanthi said.
So tossing a Frisbee around campus with your friends over the weekend could keep you in the game and out of a doctor’s office.