Young athletes cautioned about specializing too soon

The American Academy of Pediatrics says youngsters can benefit from postponing specialization in a single sport until adolescence.

The group, which has 55,000 member doctors, issued the statement in its July journal. Because more children are training at younger ages and competing as part of "elite" sports teams, doctors say they are seeing increased demands - both physical and mental - being placed on their young patients.

While AAP surveys found that most young athletes' experiences with high-level competition were positive, the report notes that kids who specialize have higher incidents of "burnout," are under more pressure from parents, and miss out on educational and social opportunities. By contrast, those who participate in a variety of sports tend to be more consistent performers, have fewer injuries, and adhere to sports longer.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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