Specialized-sport athletes have greater risk of injury

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RAPID CITY, S.D. -

A study released by the National Federation of High School Associations found that high school athletes who specialize in a single sport are 70 percent more likely to suffer an injury than those who play multiple sports.

Trever Wagner, a physical therapist at The Physical Therapy Center, says there are many benefits to cross-training, like building muscle and bone density.

“The end result is to hopefully prevent those injuries," Wagner said.

Cross-training implements both resistance and cardiovascular exercises. Wagner says that runners continuously top the charts for overuse injuries, often having to resort to cross-training exercises such as biking or swimming.

"Do your running two to three times a week … what your coaches want you to do,” Wagner says. “On your off days is when you can utilize the cross-training effect of either the resistance training or even just biking. So it provides that less-of-an-impact activity. So, it gives your bones, your muscles a break, but at the same, it's still raising that cardiovascular effect."

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin measured the rate of specialization in sports and found that soccer was the most-specialized sport. The most commonly reported injuries were a result of putting too much stress on a concentrated group of muscles, ligaments and bones. Wagner says baseball and softball also see a lot of sport-specific injuries.

"The baseball pitchers, softball pitchers, things like that - they practice that every day,” Wagner says. “It’s a good idea, the specificity aspect ... so, the pitching - you have to do that to learn the repetition of it. But at the same time, there's that kind of balance you have to find out.”

Wagner suggests that one day a baseball player could focus on pitching and throwing, but the next day, focus on other aspects such as endurance and strength training. Strengthening the muscles around the shoulder joint will help prevent overuse injuries.

Some examples of cross training would include cycling, swimming and rock climbing. These are low impact sports that work a different set of muscles depending on your sport.

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