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Sports Medicine Feature

Source: Spangdahlem Air Base, Wikimedia Commons, and Ron Cogswell

Does Playing Multiple Sports Offer Protective Effects?

Tracey Romero • Fri, November 24th, 2017

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Experts have been warning for some time about the dangers of sport specialization at an early age, but a recent study, “The Effects of Playing Multiple High School Sports on National Basketball Association Players’ Propensity for Injury and Athlete Performance,” published online on November 14, 2017 in The American Journal of Sports Medicine is the first study to ask if playing multiple sports in high school protect National Basketball Association (NBA) basketball players from injury during their professional career.

The researchers gathered data on first round draft picks from 2008 to 2015 in the National Basketball Association including participation in high school sports, major injuries sustained in the NBA, percentage of games played in the NBA, and whether the athlete was still active in the NBA.

According to the data, out of the 237 athletes evaluated, 36 (15%) were considered multisport athletes in high school. Two hundred and one (85%) were single-sport athletes in high school. The multisport athletes played in more total games than their single-sport counterparts (78.4% vs. 72.8%; p < .001). In addition, the multisport athletes were less likely to be seriously injured during their career (78.4% vs. 72.8%; p < .001). Playing multiple sports in high school was also connected to a longer career in the NBA.

The researchers wrote, “While a minority of professional basketball athletes participated in multiple sports in high school, those who were multisport athletes participated in more games, experienced fewer major injuries, and had longer careers than those who participated in a single sport.”

They called for more research to explore further if there really is a long-term protective effect.

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