Parents of young athletes who participate in multiple sports no doubt yearn for the day when their offspring choose one sport to concentrate on.
Beyond the stresses of getting them to their next practice or competition, however, there is more to consider, new research shows.
An Indiana University suggests that young athletes who participate in ‘multidirectional sports’ — such as basketball or soccer, where the athlete moves in many directions — rather than ‘unidirectional’ sports like running, cycling or swimming, where an athlete moves in a single direction, build stronger bones that may be at lower risk for stress injuries as they age.
The researchers looked at female Division I and II cross country athletes. Runners, as a group, are predisposed to bone-stress injuries.
They surveyed the women about their history as athletes, including the types of sports they played as children and teens, how intensely they played them and for how long.
From there, they separated the athletes into groups: Those who had focused almost exclusively on unidirectional sports and those whose athletic background also included multidirectional sports.
Then the athletes underwent detailed bone scans.
The researchers found that the collegiate runners who had played multidirectional sports had better bone structure and strength than those who focused more exclusively on running.
Their takeaway message is that for developing athletes, there’s a health benefit to exploring different sports, and a risk of future injuries if they don’t.
If your young athlete balks, you can always tell them Usain Bolt played loads of cricket and soccer long before he was known as the world’s fastest man.