A lot of kids only play one sport in school, but a recent study says that can not only lead to more injuries -- it can also put athletes at a greater risk of obesity.
Researchers at Ohio State University found one-sport students are 33 percent more likely to become obese as adults, and FOX 9 News spoke with Dr. Gram Morrison, a sports medicine specialist, to get more information about why that may be.
Q: What is behind the trend of kids specializing so early on a single sport on a year-round basis? Is it being driven by the parents maybe?
A: Parents, probably coaches, probably institutions and probably money.
Q: I can't help but think that a lot of folks think their kid is going to be the next Tiger Woods. In fact, they call this "Tiger Woods Syndrome" -- and he collapsed in pain during the final round at yesterday's pro-golf tournament. He's probably the most famous athlete who was raised focusing exclusively on one sport. Are there negative effects? He's had his share of injuries in addition to all his success.
A: I think if you put Tiger Woods' name on anything, you'll get a lot of attention, but I think the point of this study shows that kids who spend their time only on one sport, dedicated year-round, they're going to get 50 percent more knee injuries. That makes us worry about those athlete who can't recover, and the gaining weight aspect is a big deal too. That's something we've always suspected… These kids are left with no other sport to do, nothing to help them burn up energy, and they just have no other resources to go to. That's why we think they gain weight. We've all seen kids -- especially those with one sport year-round -- get a lot of over-use injuries all the time. This research helps us support the idea that they can get more injuries by doing that.
Q: So, you're thinking multiple sports prevents them from the repetitive nature of what some of these sports, and the workouts needed to play them, bring about?
A: Yes, if kids get a variety of sports, they learn to use their joints and muscles in other ways entirely. It's almost like the joints themselves have to learn certain functions, and if they learn a variety of functions, they can learn a variety of skills and find a way to compensate for weaknesses.
Q: What about other possible negative long-term effects or other reasons you'd advise against early specialization?
A: Weight gain is a new one, and that's interesting news to find out. What else can we do? We want to prevent people from getting psychological burnout. There are lots of stories about people who dedicate their whole life to just one sport -- track being a good example.
Q: A guy like Joe Mauer seems to be a good example of somebody who played a variety of sports growing up. He excelled at all of them. Doesn't that prove you really don't need to specialize on one sport as a kid if maybe you want to play in the pro some day?
A: I think good athletes will succeed no matter what they're doing. Joe Mauer is a good example. He had a scholarship offer from Florida State to be a quarterback there, and he, I believe, was in the state tournament in basketball, football and baseball. So, he's a great example of athletes that can do well in almost anything.