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12:06 PM

Specializing in sports may not be the best approach for kids

Healthier Approach to Sports

So you want your child to grow up to be the next Steph Curry or Serena Williams. Just focus on one sport, you may think, or at least play that sport most of the year. Experts say there is a saner approach to kids' sports that can be the ticket to success.

Those little kids wearing Alcides Escobar jerseys on the diamond have big dreams. So do many of their parents. They have dreams of their child one day making spectacular plays just like the Royals' shortstop. The odds are astronomical. But no matter which sport is played, many parents, coaches and kids think if you practice more, play more, focus more on that sport, you boost your chances of getting a college scholarship or maybe even becoming a professional. 

What if you don't specialize?

"I think kids are being told they won't be good enough. I think they're being told there won't be a spot on the team. They can't take a season off," said Nicole Elliott, a parent.

Only the experts say that's wrong.

"There aren't studies showing sports specialization leads to greater success. What we do know it leads to is greater rates of burn-out in adolescent athletes. We know it leads to increased risk of overuse injuries," said Dr. Greg Canty, a sports medicine specialist at Children's Mercy.

Elliott's daughter, Katie, is rehabbing at Children's Mercy Blue Valley. She tore an ACL playing soccer. Before that, she suffered a stress fracture twice in her other leg. Katie is 14-years old.

"I realized, wow, I'm putting a lot of stress on my bones and my muscles," she said.

Katie doesn't know if she'll play soccer again. She had played eight months of the year, and ran track along with soccer in the spring.

Experts say if you participate more than eight months in a sport and exclude other sports, that's specialization. The say there is a better way.

"You develop a different skill set that helps you overall as an athlete," Dr. Canty said.

The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine says girls should wait to focus on a single sport until age 12, and boys should wait until they're 14.  Here are more of the society's recommendations.


Read the whole story and see the video via FOX 4.

Learn more about the Center for Sports Medicine at Children's Mercy.