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A balanced approach to kids' sport prevents injuries

We see a lot of sport injuries between the ages of 10 and 19. Most of these are minor injuries and the volume is driven by participation.

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 structured sport or the wrong type of training. This means they can be more at risk of injury.

The idea that training harder and specialising in one sport early will lead to sporting success, is common. But more evidence shows that maintaining a broader sporting base and specialising later, creates the opportunity to pursue high performance. It is also more likely to keep young people engaged in sport for life.

Focus on fun and variety

To help kids and teens enjoy sport and stay healthy; 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, eg fewer 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 – this provides bigger opportunities to develop a variety of skills by just 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.

Read the sports specialisation in young athletes position statement

Information on participating in good sport:

Visit the Balance is Better website 

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

Use the sport and training schedule planner

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