Physical therapist says variety is the key to kids' success in sports

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) -- Practice may make perfect, but when it comes to kids' sports, variety may be the key to long-term success.

As the school year winds down and many families look for activities and programs to keep their kids busy this summer, a physical therapist is offering advice on getting children engaged in a variety of physical activities.

Shondell Jones is a co-owner of Kinetic Physical Therapy and Wellness in Greenville, North Carolina. He said that research shows kids benefit most from exposure to multiple sports and forms of activity at a young age.

In an era of specialization, traveling teams and year-round sports, it could be easy to let your child focus on just one sport.

Jones often reminds people that most successful, professional athletes played a variety of sports when they were younger and believes being a multi-sport athlete contributed to their success later.

"Lebron James played football. You know Steph Curry ran track and played golf. Michael Jordan played baseball and played golf. if these kids are 8, 9, 10, give them many options, so that way their body can get exposed to several demands as their body is still growing," he said.

Jones said the benefits of sports are both physical and mental and set children up to lead more active healthy lives, but the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that at least 50 percent of athletic injuries (think sprains, strains, and stress fractures) are from simple overuse.

If a child is going to specialize in a certain sport, Jones recommended waiting until he or she is about 16 to 17-years-old; at which point they're physically ready for such vigor.

While variety is best for growing muscles, Jones also emphasizes the importance of rest. Jones recommends a couple days off for rest each week with at least two to three months off of an individual sport each year.

Jones also encourages parents to pay close attention to a young athlete's complaints about aches and pains. While they could be simple growing pains, they could also be precursors of more severe over-use injuries.