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Can focusing on one sport be harmful to a teenager?

Luis Rodriguez, MD
Sports Medicine
Across the United States, more and more teenagers are focusing on a single, specialized sport or activity, much like the young gymnasts or other competitors at the Olympics. Unfortunately, these adolescents also increasingly develop so-called overuse injuries. An overuse injury occurs over time as the tissue of a bone or muscle endures repetitive stress -- and then is not allowed enough time to heal and recover.

Research has shown a link between sport specialization and an increase in overuse injuries among young people, many of whom train vigorously at the high school level or earlier. In some cases, these teens are aiming for the professional or Olympic level of competition.

Such a drive or ambition to become an elite athlete tends to leave out a crucial -- medical -- aspect of growing up: Bones and ligaments are not fully developed and are more vulnerable to injury. We have to make sure that we are providing a healthy environment with proper guidance for our children. The focus should not be just on winning. The health and safety of our young athletes should not be a secondary concern.
 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.