Runners compete near the start of the girls 5k run...

Runners compete near the start of the girls 5k run in the NSCHSAA League Cross Country Championships. (Oct. 28, 2012) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Young athletes competing in endurance sports such as swimming and cross-country should be careful not to overdo it. A study by a sports medicine specialist at the University of Minnesota found that the bone mineral density of endurance athletes younger than 20 is significantly lower than those who compete in ball sports like soccer or basketball.

Gaining bone mineral density during childhood is essential to prevent bone problems later on. Repetitive stress, the key to endurance sports, is counterproductive in increasing bone strength.

The most effective sports for increasing bone strength are ball sports. Stress from these sports comes from starting and stopping, rather than constant pounding. The winning formula: Young endurance athletes should play other sports as well.


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