Athletes involved in soccer, basketball, hockey and sports involving multiple speeds and movements instead of only one in sport like running, can develop stronger bones and reduce the risk of bone injuries later in life, a recent study done by the IU School of Health and Human Sciences and the School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI showed.
In the study, researchers examined Division I and II female cross-country runners who are prone to bone stress injuries. From the research, it became clear athletes who ran and played a multidirectional sport when they were younger had a better bone structure than those who only ran, the article said.
Following these results, the study recommended athletes play multidirectional sports younger and specialize in running later in life to develop a stronger skeleton and delay bone stress injuries.
“There is a common misperception that kids need to specialize in a single sport to succeed at higher levels,” said Stuart Warden, associate dean for research and Chancellor’s Professor in the IU School of Health and Human Sciences at IUPUI, in an IU News article. “However, recent data indicate that athletes who specialize at a young age are at a greater risk of an overuse injury and are less likely to progress to higher levels of competition.”
As a person grows older, he said it’s important to look at bone mass and size to determine skeletal health over a lifespan. The researchers used high-resolution imaging to evaluate the shin bone and bones in the feet where injuries can happen frequently for runners. In doing so, the article said those who participated in running and multidirectional sports had 10-20% more bone strength than those who only ran.
Families and sports programs with junior athletes should evaluate when their athlete should specialize in one area or sport, Warden said. He recommends not specializing until at least their freshman year of high school, so that they have a chance for proper growth and development. Warden also said resting and recovery are also important in improving one’s bone strength and athletic performance.