A recent study suggests that young athletes may decrease the risk for injury by engaging in unorganized free play. Study leader Neeru Jayanthi, MD, and colleagues report that their findings indicate that injured athletes who play a single sport, such as tennis, spent much less time in free play and unorganized sports than uninjured athletes who play tennis and other sports.
The study reportedly encompassed 891 young athletes seen at Loyola University Health System and Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago clinics. Participants were comprised of 618 athletes seeking treatment for sports injuries and 273 uninjured athletes who came in for sport physicals.
The results note that in single-sport tennis players, individuals who sustained injuries spent 12.6 hours per week playing organized tennis and 2 hours per week in free play and recreation. Uninjured tennis players spent 9.7 hours per week playing organized sports, and 4 hours a week in free play and recreation, despite having a similar total number of weekly hours as injured athletes, researchers say.
Researchers note that the ratio remained the same when comparing 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 1.9 times as much time playing organized sports as they did in free play and recreation.
Jayanthi emphasizes that the study’s results suggest that, “more participation in a variety of unorganized sports and free play may be protective of injury, particularly among tennis players.”
Source: Loyola University Health System