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A balanced approach to kids' sport prevents injuries

We’re seeing more kids and teens getting injured playing sport. What’s most worrying is that for some, the injuries are serious ones we’d expect to see in adults rather than young people.

Young bodies are different - too much sport and training can cause damage

Kids and teens are still developing. They're vulnerable to the stresses caused by too much sport and training, which means they are more at risk of injury and doing long-term damage.

There’s only one chance to go through puberty and too much high-intensity sport and training can delay it. This narrows the window of opportunity to build bone mass and develop muscle strength and coordination. That can increase the risk of injury throughout life.

The idea that training harder and specialising in one sport early will lead to sporting success is common. But a growing body of evidence shows that maintaining a broader sporting base and specialising later tends to lead to more sporting success and helps develop a lifelong love of sport.

Focus on fun and variety

To help kids and teens enjoy sport without getting injured, encourage fun, variety and free play. 

  • Encourage variety – have them try out different sports and playing positions during their school years.

  • Do the numbers – the number of hours per week of structured sports training and competition should be less than their age (e.g. less than 10 hours per week for a 10-year-old).

  • Avoid playing a single sport for more than 8 months per year.

  • Play for enjoyment – are they smiling? Focus on developing a love of sport and being active.

  • Free play – allow kids time to just be kids and play. They develop many skills by simply playing with their mates, which can also help them in their sport.

Allow time for rest, recovery and sleep – sometimes doing nothing is doing something.

More information

ACC and Sport NZ support the Australasian College of Sport and Exercise Physicians position statement on sport specialisation in young athletes.

More detail and the full position statement is available

Sports specialisation in young athletes position statement

And more information on participating in good sport is also available

Balance is Better 

Use the Sport and training schedule to calculate the total hours of organised sport your child is doing.

Sport and training schedule planner

We’re working with Sport New Zealand and other organisations to provide a quality sport experience for kids.