Should My Child Play Sports?
Sports are a great way for kids to improve both their mental and physical health
The President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition Science Board found that participating in sports is associated with lower rates of anxiety and depression, lower stress, higher self-esteem, reduced risk of suicide, increased cognitive performance, increased creativity and increased life satisfaction. Furthermore, it found that physical activity such as organized sports improves bone health, weight, cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness and reduces a child’s risk of cancer and diabetes.
But there is a downside to participating in youth sports, and that’s when a child participates in tough, year-round training in just one sport, or what experts call early youth sport specialization. That can lead to overuse injuries such as stress fractures.
“There is no evidence that young children will benefit from early sport specialization in the majority of sports,” a panel from the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine wrote in a consensus statement. “They are subject to overuse injury and burnout from concentrated activity.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that playing multiple sports is better for young athletes and advocates delaying specialization until late adolescence.
“A better, healthier alternative to single sport specialization is for kids to play a variety of sports year-round,” Dr. Peter Fabricant of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. “If a kid loves baseball, they can play that sport for two seasons. The other two seasons, they can participate in recreational or organized sports that don’t involve overhead throwing. That way, they’re giving their arm a rest.”
Before enrolling your student in a new sport, consider their schedule. Will they have time for practices and games? Will you have time to take them to practices and games? Do you have a back-up plan in case you can’t be there? Some sports also require a pretty hefty upfront expense in equipment. Can your family’s budget accommodate that expense for a new sport that your child may not continue to compete in?
Sit down and talk to your child about the commitments and responsibilities involved with being a student athlete and make sure they — and you — are up to the task before signing on the dotted line.