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Playing for Fun May Reduce Young Athletes' Injuries

TUESDAY, Jan. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Young athletes who concentrate on just one sport are more likely to get injured than kids who spend more time playing unorganized sports and games, a new study finds.

Researchers found that young, single-sport athletes who were injured spent much less time in free play and unorganized sports than those who didn't suffer injuries.

"Our findings suggest that more participation in a variety of unorganized sports and free play may be protective of injury, particularly among tennis players," Dr. Neeru Jayanthi, a sports medicine specialist at Loyola University Health System in Maywood, Ill., said in a Loyola news release.

The study included more than 600 young athletes treated for injuries and slightly less than 300 uninjured young athletes who were undergoing sports physicals. The researchers focused on 124 tennis players, including 74 who played no other sport.

Among the single-sport tennis players, the ones who suffered injuries spent almost 13 hours a week playing organized tennis and a little more than two hours a week in free play and recreation. The uninjured tennis players spent about 10 hours weekly playing organized tennis and about four hours per week in free play and recreation.

The injured tennis players spent more than five times as much time playing organized tennis as they did in free play, compared with 2.6 times more for the uninjured players.

Uninjured athletes who played all sports spent only twice as much time playing organized sports as they did in recreational free play, the study found.

The study was presented recently at a conference in Atlanta sponsored by the Society for Tennis Medicine and Science and the U.S. Tennis Association. Data and conclusions presented at medical meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers tips for preventing sports injuries in children.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Loyola University Health System, news release, Jan. 11, 2013

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