Should kids play, one or multiple sports? — excellent question

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So often young athletes are faced with the question whether to concentrate on one sport or play multiple sports. Today it’s not unusual to see kids younger than 13 who are already putting all their effort into one sport. The multiple-sport athlete is far less common today than years ago.

Some of the thinking by coaches and parents is that the young athlete will tend to fall behind if they play different sports instead of just one sport year-round.

This good question has no exact answer. Here are some factors that can help make the decision:

Physically, with young, growing bodies, playing the same sport with the same movements, same muscles being used, same stress to the same areas, is challenging. Overuse injuries in the upper and lower extremities are a problem.

It is important to include off-sport conditioning that will help develop all areas of the athlete’s body to counteract repetitive motion problems. Concentrate on working “the opposites,” or areas and muscles that counteract repetitive motion areas. Athletic trainers, physical therapists and coaches can help develop those strategies.

Off-sport conditioning is no less important to the multiple sport athlete. Balance exercises and foot and ankle strengthening are a must, regardless of the sport.

Tennis, gymnastics, swimming, soccer, figure skating, volleyball and dance are examples of sports where specialization starts very young. My thinking is if the kid’s interest is really that one sport, then it’s OK to specialize. But don’t let the coach convince you that’s the only way to become really good and possibly get that scholarship. It isn't. Many of our best college and pro athletes played multiple sports ask kids.

Either way, make sure your young athlete enjoys his or her sport and is not being physically or mentally burned out because of the constant demand. Even serious one-sport kids require time off and proper recovery — more is not always better.

At the same time, things happen. Acute injuries can be so unexpected, in or outside of sports. Getting immediate evaluation and care is important. It’s why I always appreciate the critical role of athletic trainers who evaluate what happened and what to do about an acute injury.

The trainer also can be the youngster’s best help with persistent overuse injuries. Paying attention to what the problem is, what areas are involved, and proper strengthening or changes in technique might be involved.

As As I've stated in previous articles, if overuse injuries are persistent in the lower extremities, pay attention to foot type and mechanics. So often it’s the flat pronated feet, the high arches, bowed legs, knock knees, among other things, that are the root caused of these injuries. Addressing them with custom orthotics is very helpful. My Aurora office offers them free. stated in previous articles, if overuse injuries are persistent in the lower extremities, pay attention to foot type and mechanics. So often it’s the flat pronated feet, the high arches, bowed legs, knock knees, among other things, that are the root caused of these injuries. Addressing them with custom orthotics is very helpful. My Aurora office offers them free.

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    The Sports Doctor

    Born and raised in New York, I've practiced podiatry and sports medicine for over 30 years in the Aurora- Naperville area (almost BUT NOT QUITE LONG ENOUGH to lose my NY accent ). You can check that out for yourselves by listening to Sports Doctor Radio, on http://www.healthylife.net/ Join me live Wednesday's, 3-4 pm. CST. The Sports Doctor was formerly on WDCB 90.9 FM in Chicago for more than 20 years. The Sports Doctor is also read in newspaper columns including The Aurora Beacon News and the Naperville Sun. Also please 'like' my Facebook page, "Sports Doctor Radio" and follow me on Twitter @SportsDocRadio to keep in touch! Go to sportsdoctorradio.com to hear many past shows and read my many articles. My specialty in sports medicine is orthotic therapy, combined with specific training and strengthening of the feet and ankles. I've been fortunate enough to have worked with some of the best athletes in all sports including many of the Super Bowl Bears back in the 80's, tennis greats John McEnroe and Tracy Austin, and numerous Cubs and White Sox. A true highlight of my career was watching Naperville's hometown figure skater Evan Lysacek, who I first saw as a nine-year-old and put orthotics in his skates, win the 2010 Olympic Gold Medal for men's figure skating with his orthotics (updated of course!) still in his boots. These high performance youngsters still remain my passion. Another big interest of mine is the challenge of our countries greatest epidemic: childhood obesity. Join me on Facebook and Twitter for updates on this important topic.

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