How often should a child practice sports?

There are quite a few things that factor into this answer. These are: the type of sport; the level of competition, for example: professional versus college; the age of the athlete; and, the gender of the athlete. In the past five years, athletic trainers across the country have seen a rise in the number of injuries they are seeing every day. This may be linked to athletes that are now practicing and playing year round. There are about 44 million young people that participate in sports. It may be commitment to one sport year round or several sports over the period of a year. Either way, by the time an athlete reaches college it is rare that they have not had some kind of injury. Injury is our body’s way of letting us know that we have reached the limit that the body can withstand. Depending on the sport, there may be ways of keeping track of repetitions or stress on certain body parts. For instance in 2007, the Little League Association developed guidelines for the number of pitches a child can throw depending on their age. For example, a 9-10 year old is limited to 75 pitches per day and is only allowed to pitch in one game per day. There are also mandatory rest periods for little leaguers before they are allowed to pitch again. These regulations are a result of understanding that the body can only take so much, and the body must be protected during growth and development. Prevention of injury is the most important thing. Parents and athletes should find out if there are specific guidelines for their sport that limit the number of practices/games an athlete can play. Athletes have a responsibility to be as physically ready for competition as possible, with proper nutrition, flexibility, strength, and conditioning before actively competing. Injuries should be taken care of sooner than later so that the body is ready for competing. These prevention measures will help an athlete’s body perform at the best it can and extend the amount of stress that the body can take.

(This answer provided for NATA by Shandra Esparza, M.Ed., ATC, LAT.)

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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.