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GENERAL: Is participation in many sports healthy?

National physical activity guidelines for children and teens recommend at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. Guidelines from SHAPE America indicate that several hours of appropriate activity can be beneficial to fitness and health.

So being involved in several sports can be beneficial. Learning skills in one sport can transfer to other sports and make them easier to learn. For example, learning how to serve a tennis ball can help you learn how to spike or serve a volleyball. Also, learning many sports can be useful later in life because people who have skills in many activities have more options for participation.

However, even a good thing such as being physically active can be harmful if overdone. Experts have identified problems with overtraining. Overtraining means doing so much activity that you don’t enjoy it anymore and feel fatigued even when you are not participating. We also know that too much activity in hot or cold temperatures can be harmful. Finally, too much of a certain activity can cause harm. For example, pitchers in youth baseball are limited in the number of pitches that they can throw each week because too much throwing can cause damage to the elbow.

The key is to listen to your body. Report problems to parents or other responsible adults. “No pain, no gain” is not correct. Pain is not necessary for achieving good performance in sports; it’s actually your body’s way of warning you that you have a problem.

It is OK to play several sports throughout the year. It is also OK to participate in more than one sport at a time. For example, you might play baseball on a team and practice playing soccer. However, if the combined activities take more than a couple of hours a day and if they are so vigorous that they cause you pain and excessive soreness, you are doing too much. Also listen to your “fun meter.” If your involvement in sports starts to seem like work rather than play, it may be time to make some adjustments.

Before starting on any sport program that involves regular sessions of vigorous physical activity or physical contact, you need to have a good medical examination to make sure that you are ready for the activity. Many school sports require a physical exam before you can participate. Participation also typically requires the consent of a parent or responsible adult.