To protect against injuries, young athletes may need to play more just for fun

One way to avoid injuries in young athletes may be for them to simply spend more time in unorganized free play such as pick-up games, a Loyola University Medical Study has found.

In a first-of-its-kind study, medicine specialist Dr. Neeru Jayanthi and colleagues found that injured who play a single sport such as spent much less time in and unorganized sports than uninjured athletes who play tennis and many other sports.

Jayanthi presented his findings at the Society for Tennis Medicine and Science and United States Tennis Association-Tennis Medicine and Injury Conference in Atlanta.

In this collaborative study, Jayanthi followed 891 young athletes who were seen at Loyola University Health System and Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago clinics. Participants included 618 athletes who sought treatment for and 273 uninjured athletes who came in for sports physicals. included 124 tennis players (74 of whom played tennis exclusively).

Among single-sport tennis players, the ones who suffered injuries spent 12.6 hours per week playing organized tennis and only 2.4 hours per week in free play and recreation. By comparison, the uninjured tennis players spent only 9.7 hours per week playing organized sports, and 4.3 hours a week in free play and recreation, even while having a similar total number of weekly hours. In other words, the injured tennis players spent more than 5 times as much time playing organized tennis as they did in free play and recreation, while the uninjured players spent only 2.6 times as much time playing organized tennis as they did in free play and recreation.

Jayanthi found a similar ratio when he compared injured athletes who specialize in tennis with uninjured athletes who play all sports. The injured tennis players spent 5.3 times as much time playing organized tennis as they did in free play and recreation, while the uninjured athletes spent only 1.9 times as much time playing organized sports as they did in free play and recreation.

"Our findings suggest that more participation in a variety of unorganized sports and free play may be protective of injury, particularly among ," Jayanthi said.

Jayanthi is director of Primary Care Sports Medicine, Tennis Medicine, and an associate professor in the departments of Family Medicine and Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. Co-investigators in his study are Stritch medical students Erin Feller, Daniel Fischer and Courtney Pinkham, and Dr. Cynthia LaBella and co-investigators at Children's Memorial Hospital.

The findings are a subset of an ongoing, prospective study of young athletes who are seen in clinics and followed for three years. The study has enrolled 891 so far, and has received two grants from the American Medical Society for .

The study began as a project in a Loyola program called STAR (Student Training in Approaches to Research). More than one-third of Stritch School of Medicine students participate in formal research programs such as STAR. Evidence demonstrates that such students become better physicians by understanding and practicing evidence-based medicine.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Wii video game carries doctor's warning

Jun 08, 2007

Too much time playing the Nintendo Wii video game system can give players an acute form of tennis elbow, a doctor in Barcelona, Spain, warns.

The ace perceptual skills of tennis pros

Jun 11, 2008

Tennis Grand Slam season is upon us once again with the French Open already over, and Wimbledon hot on its heels later in the month. Past studies have shown that tennis players outperform non-players at anticipating which ...

Bicarbonate adds fizz to players' tennis performance

Oct 26, 2010

Dietary supplementation with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) on the morning of a tennis match allows athletes to maintain their edge. A randomized, controlled trial reported in BioMed Central's open access Journal of th ...

Recommended for you

With kids in school, parents can work out

22 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Back-to-school time provides an opportunity for parents to develop an exercise plan that fits into the family schedules, an expert suggests.

Obama offers new accommodations on birth control

Aug 22, 2014

The Obama administration will offer a new accommodation to religious nonprofits that object to covering birth control for their employees. The measure allows those groups to notify the government, rather than their insurance ...

Use a rule of thumb to control how much you drink

Aug 22, 2014

Sticking to a general rule of pouring just a half glass of wine limits the likelihood of overconsumption, even for men with a higher body mass index. That's the finding of a new Iowa State and Cornell University ...

User comments