A recent study suggests that overuse injuries are more common among young athletes who specialize in an individual sport, such as gymnastics, tennis, and dance, compared to those who focus on a single team sport.

In addition, according to the study, published in The Physician and Sportsmedicine, acute injuries from a single traumatic event were more common in athletes whose single sport was a team sport, especially football, cheerleading, and soccer.

“Kids in an individual sports usually start specializing at a younger age than those in team sports, and individual sport athletes tend to spend more hours per week training, which might explain why we see a greater proportion of overuse injuries among these athletes,” said senior author Cynthia LaBella, MD, medical director of the Institute for Sports Medicine at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Associate Professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in a media release.

LaBella and her team enrolled 1,109 athletes, ages 7-18, in the study, which aimed to determine whether sports specialization and injury patterns vary by sports type, according to the study’s abstract.

Among the athletes in the study, 313 reported participating in a single sport and training in that sport more than 8 months of the year. Sports with the highest proportion of single-sport-specialized athletes were tennis, gymnastics, and dance. These three sports also had the highest rate of serious overuse injury. The youngest age of sports specialization was seen in gymnastics (8.9 years), dance (10.8 years), and soccer (10.9 years).

“Better understanding of the relationships between sports specialization and injury risk can help us design more effective injury prevention strategies,” LaBella states in the release.

“For example, we know from previous studies that neuromuscular training may help to improve motor skills and performance while decreasing risk for injury among athletes specializing in a single sport. Our data suggest that young athletes specializing in individual sports may reap the greatest benefits from this sort of preventive neuromuscular training.”

[Source(s): Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Science Daily]