This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.
A leading group of American doctors is warning against forcing young people to become skilled in a single sport. It says young people who play just one sport face additional physical or other demands from intense training and competition. It says children involved in sports should be urged to take part in different activities and develop many skills.
A committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics prepared the policy statement. It was published this month in the group's medical magazine, Pediatrics.
The doctors note that more and more children are skilled in one sport at an early age. There are many media reports of young competitors in sports such as gymnastics, figure skating and tennis.
Some of the most famous athletes first became active in a sport when they were five years old. A few started even earlier. The committee noted that the successes of young athletes can be a powerful influence for others to follow. It says children wishing to compete at a high level require training that could be considered extreme even for adults. It says the necessary desire and intensity of training raise many concerns about the safety of high-level athletic activity for any young person.
The Academy says the health effects of intense training in young athletes need to be fully investigated. Risks to young athletes include injuries, delayed menstruation, eating disorders and emotional stress.
The committee of doctors offered some suggestions. It urged children to become involved in sports at levels that meet their abilities and interests. It said doctors should work with parents to make sure that someone knowledgeable is training the child athlete. That person should know correct methods of training, equipment and the physical and emotional health of young competitors.
The group said doctors should supervise the condition of child athletes involved in intense training. It said doctors and trainers should work to prevent injuries that result from too much physical activity. Doctors should make sure the children eat a healthy, balanced diet. And doctors should watch for signs of too much training, including weight loss and sleep problems.
This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by George Grow. This is Steve Ember.