Youth Sports Participation By the Numbers

Overuse Injuries

The answer to overuse injuries is now surprisingly simple: If parents want to limit injuries, they should encourage children to play multiple sports and discourage single sport specialization. In a study of 1,000 Wisconsin high school athletes, 49 percent of kids who specialized in one sport by age 12 reported injury, while only 23 percent of multisport athletes did.

The American Academy of Pediatrics found the same results: Kids who play a variety of sports participate in sports longer, with fewer injuries, than those who specialize early.

Youth Sports and Health

While over 50 percent of youth are playing a sport, only 26 percent of 6 to 12-year-olds and 39 percent of 13 to 17-year-olds meet SFIA and Project Play's definition of "Active to a Healthy Level," which means they participate in a high-calorie burning activity 151 times per year. That means kids are playing sports, but only for a season, or not often enough over the course of a year. It's a good start but not enough to keep kids healthy.

The Future of Youth Sports

Youth sports are one piece of a bigger heath puzzle and there are guidelines parents can follow to ensure their kids develop a lifelong love of fitness. Project Play, the SFIA and the Society of Health and Physical Educators are all moving towards encouraging "physical literacy," which encompasses a child's ability, desire and confidence to participate in physical activity. Project Play also suggests programs that encourage sport sampling and increase participation in local rec leagues.

READ THIS NEXT: 6 Reasons Why Single-Sport Specialization is Out

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