One way for young, single-sport athletes to avoid injuries may be for them to spend more time in unorganized free play such as pick-up games, according to a study by researchers at Chicago’s Loyola University.
This unique study found that injured young athletes who play a single sport such as tennis spent much less time in free play and unorganized sports than uninjured athletes who play a varied range of other sports.
Out of a total of 891 young athletes who were seen at Loyola University Health System and Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago clinics, 618 were athletes seeking treatment for sports injuries and 273 uninjured athletes who came in for sports physical examinations. Study participants included 124 tennis players (74 of whom played tennis exclusively).
The injured tennis players spent more than 5 times as much time playing organized tennis as they did in free play and recreation, while the uninjured players spent only 2.6 times as much time playing organized tennis as they did in free play and recreation.
The researchers found a similar ratio when comparing injured athletes who specialize in tennis with uninjured athletes who play all sports.
The injured tennis players spent 5.3 times as much time playing organized tennis as they did in free play and recreation, while the uninjured athletes spent only 1.9 times as much time playing organized sports as they did in free play and recreation.
“Our findings suggest that more participation in a variety of unorganized sports and free play may be protective of injury, particularly among tennis players,” said sports medicine specialist Dr. Neeru Jayanthi
Dr. Jayanthi presented his findings at the Society for Tennis Medicine and Science and United States Tennis Association-Tennis Medicine and Injury Conference in Atlanta.