Sports programs can offer wide range of benefits, some risks
AlysonSulaski Wyckoff, Associate Editor
AAP Clinical Report
A new AAP clinical report reviews the benefits and risks of organized sports for youths,
addressing the roles of parents, pediatricians, schools, coaches and communities.
Positive effects of organized sports participation can include higher self-esteem,
improved academic performance and general life skills. Involvement in sports can enhance
kids’ physical, emotional, social and psychological health. However, parents and pediatricians
need to be mindful of the risks of burnout and overscheduling, early specialization,
unsafe environments or rules, abuse, bullying, hazing and the harms of harsh criticism
or overly high expectations.
The report, Organized Sports for Children, Preadolescents and Adolescents from the AAP Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, is available at https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2019-0997 and will be published in the June issue of Pediatrics.
Despite the advantages of sports participation, daily opportunity for free play is
important in the development of motor skills needed for organized sports participation.
The report points out that more sports options are needed for children with special
needs. Schools and community organizations could offer more opportunities at multiple
levels of play. Improvements also are needed to overcome financial and transportation
barriers for families.
Positive parental support and a focus on fun and progress — instead of winning — can
greatly influence whether children enjoy and continue involvement in organized sports.