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Study finds less injuries for multi-sport high school athletes

Posted: 9:34 PM, May 22, 2017
Updated: 2017-05-22 23:00:41-04

If you have a young athlete in your family, listen up.

Oklahoma's governing body for high school sports (OSSAA) will be paying close attention to a national study this summer.

It says high school athletes who specialize in a single sport are 70 percent more likely to suffer an injury than those who play multiple sports.

And year-round participation is a big reason why.

The Union High School girls soccer team won their third straight state title this year.

And, while the excitement of a high school championship is unmatched, the college exposure on a club team is hard to beat.

“College coaches from all over will come watch (club games),” said Union senior soccer player Haley Vanfossen.

Vanfossen will play soccer at the University of Arkansas next year, and is one of several players on the team to earn a college athletic scholarship.

“I started playing for a club team whenever I was like nine- or 10-years-old,” Vanfossen said.

According to a study commissioned by the National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS), soccer is the most-specialized sport.

But, the trend has spread to other sports, as well.

“We're starting to see more and more one-sport athletes instead of two-sport athletes because of the club scene,” said Union athletic director Emily Barkley.

Barkley agrees with the study that shows an increase in injuries among one-sport athletes.

“I think what we're seeing more is bodies breaking down because they're not getting an opportunity to rest.”

The concern is with year-round participation in the same sport.

“If you have an athlete that plays football and baseball they're using different muscles,” Barkley says. “I think if you talk to athletic trainers in the state they would be very big proponents of multi-sport athletes, just to give (student athletes) bodies an opportunity to rest.”

The study shows the most common injuries are muscle and ligament strains, mostly in the ankle or knee, which account for more than half.

Bone injuries reported tend to be sport-specific.

Vanfossen spent time recovering last year from a foot injury.

"(I) figured out I fractured a bone in my foot two years ago,” Vanfossen says.  “Then it grew back, and I had surgery mid-season to get a bone spur removed.”

Fortunately, Union’s coaching and training staff recognize the extra stress on their club players and scale back on high school workouts.

"And so, I backed off from our training days,” says head girls’ soccer coach Brian Elliott.  “(They) became either jog and stretch, or sit because it was starting to be too much.”

But, the pressure to compete at a high level is real, and it's starting at a younger age.

“The elite top NCAA Division I schools are trying to sign their verbal commitments by the girls’ freshman year,” Elliott said.

The accelerated timeline is forcing parents and their kids to decide earlier, whether to enroll in one-sport year-round, or continue to play multiple sports.

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