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Young swimmer and her groupmates in water listening to trainer instructions during training

Are Year-Round Sports Good for Kids?

Letters to an Athletic Trainer

By Sean Burton, MBA, LAT, ATC

Dear Athletic Trainer,

My 10-year-old daughter loves swimming and has asked to join a year-round swim team. I know playing sports is good for kids, but I worry about her swimming so much. What is your opinion on year-round sports? Are they good for kids or not?

--Sincerely, Concerned Mom

Dear Concerned Mom,

Year-round sports at early ages of development, like age 10, are typically not a wise decision. Participating in a single sport all year round increases the likelihood of an overuse injury and burnout of the athlete. Overuse injuries are caused by repetitive motions, done over a long period of time. In swimming, we worry about shoulder injuries due to the repetitive nature of most swim strokes. I would recommend that your daughter participate in at least two different sports, if not more, throughout the year. Although, this doesn’t mean participating in two sports at the same time for the whole year. Time off from each sport is also important as it allows the body and mind time to rest and heal. It will also give her time to go outside and just be a kid. I agree with you that kids playing sports is important, but stay away from year-round sports.

Below are some specific recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics’ 2016 Position statement on early sports specialization.  

    1.) The primary focus of sports for young athletes should be to have fun and learn lifelong physical activity skills.

    2.) Participating in multiple sports, at least until puberty, decreases the chances of injuries, stress, and burnout in young athletes.

    3.) For most sports, waiting to specialize in a sport until later (late adolescence) may lead to a higher chance of the young athlete accomplishing his or her athletic goals.

    4.) Early diversification and later specialization provides for a greater chance of lifetime sports involvement, lifetime physical fitness, and possibly elite participation.

    5.) Having at least a total of three months off throughout the year, in increments of one month, from their particular sport of interest will allow for the athlete’s physical and psychological recovery. Young athletes can still participate in other activities to meet physical exercise guidelines during the time off.

    6.) Young athletes who have at least one to two days off per week from their particular sport of interest can decrease the chance for injuries.

    For more information, check out this infographic from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

    Burton_Infographic_Letters to an Athletic Trainer


    Athletic Trainer

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