Are kids specializing in sports too early?

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FARGO, N.D. (KVLY) -- Playing sports for fun is often how it starts for kids. And many parents may think the sooner their child specializes in a sport, the better they'll become.

But some experts urge against specializing too early.

"I think it's dangerous to be a one-sport athlete and participate in that sport year round," said strength and conditioning specialist, Brett Beil.

Beil, who works with Sanford POWER in Fargo, North Dakota, said for kids who play only one sport, there's a higher risk of developing over-use injuries.

"You have this preseason, this in season, this traveling team and beyond, and you're having these repetitive traumas to your body through the same motions and the same movements almost the whole year," said Beil.

While injuries will inevitably occur throughout a player's career, Beil said the difference with multiple sport athletes is the diversity in conditioning.

"They're doing a certain movement pattern and some certain skills through this three to four month period during the year," said Beil. "Then, they move onto a different sport which requires a completely different or similar skill pattern, but just enough different that you're not going to cause this trauma or this repetitive use to those muscles, bones and joints."

If an athlete starts specializing at an early age, Beil added they run the risk of eventually getting burned out.

"You start to lose enjoyment in that sport, you start to become less motivated," he said. "And, studies have shown if you're a one-sport athlete in high school, you may become an inactive adult."

For athletes who decide not to play multiple sports, Beil encourages cross training to prevent injuries and stay motivated.

"Getting a chance to focus on in-season skills when you're in the in season, and in the off season getting a chance to do some motions and movements that are similar and get you prepared for the in season, but aren't identical to the movements you're going to be making during the in season program," said Beil.

Beil recommends athletes take on three sports in high school until their upperclassmen years. That's when he said the main focus should start to shift to one sport while still playing a second sport.

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