Teen girls who play several sports have a lower injury risk than those who focus on just one, a new study finds.
It included more than 1,100 girls who play basketball, soccer and volleyball. Most were middle and high school students; some were in college.
Girls who specialize too early in sports such as basketball, soccer and volleyball could find that a single-minded focus "may hinder motor development and lead to compromised hip and knee coordination during dynamic landing and jumping activities, which can lead to increased chance of potentially life-altering injuries," said lead author Christopher DiCesare. He's a biomechanist in the Division of Sports Medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio.
The study also found that girls who focused on a single sport had a higher rate of hip and knee injuries and an increased risk of knee pain.
Researchers said playing multiple sports may improve girls' coordination, and that those who specialize may not fully develop neuromuscular coordination patterns that can reduce the risk of injury.
Due to uneven growth in bone mineral and muscular and connective tissue strength before and during puberty, young athletes may be less able than older ones to handle the physical stresses associated with focusing on one sport, the study published Oct. 23 in the Journal of Athletic Training concluded.
"By understanding the influence that sport specialization has on coordination and the potential for injuries, there is the potential to make better decisions of when it may be appropriate to safely specialize in a sport," DiCesare said in a journal news release.
More than 30 million young people participate in individual or team sports, and an increasing emphasis on the success has pushed many to specialize.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on sports.