High school athletes who participate in more than one sport may be less prone to lower extremity and other injuries according to a 2016 joint research study conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations and the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
The study found that high school athletes who specialize in a single sport sustained lower-extremity injuries at significantly higher rates than athletes who did not specialize in one sport. Lower-extremity injuries were defined as any acute, gradual, recurrent or repetitive-use injury to the lower musculoskeletal system. The study, conducted throughout the 2015–16 school year at 29 Wisconsin high schools involved more than 1,500 student-athletes with male and female participants equally represented. Other key findings of this research include:
- Athletes who specialized in one sport were twice as likely to report previously sustaining a lower-extremity injury while participating in sports (46 percent) than athletes who did not specialize (24 percent).
- One-sport athletes sustained 60 percent more new lower-extremity injuries during the study than athletes who participated in multiple sports.
- Athletes who specialized in one sport were twice as likely to sustain gradual onset or repetitive-use injuries compared to multi-sport athletes.
- The most commonly reported injuries were muscle or ligament sprains (59.4 percent), mostly to ankles or knees.
This study corroborates many other studies which highlight the benefits of being a multi-sport athlete such as decreased risk of injuries, higher skill levels, less burnout, more social interaction with peers, a lifelong enjoyment of sports and a greater propensity toward leading a physically active life.
If you are a student athlete with an injury or questions about improving your sports performance, contact us for a free screening.