CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WCAV) -- For most young athletes, taking their game to the next level is the ultimate goal; playing the sport they love for a college scholarship or even a professional contract.
In an effort to achieve such a lofty goals, many athletes feel they need to specialize in one sport early in their career. However, an increasing amount of data shows that choice may lead to more injuries that could derail a promising career.
No matter the time of year, you can find Madison County, Virginia senior Isiah Smith suiting up in Mountaineer blue.
"I like playing three sports because I love all sports," said Smith.
He plays football, basketball and baseball for Madison County and next fall, he will continue his athletic career on the Fairmont State football team. He attributes playing three sports to his success and ability to stay healthy.
"I've heard that one-sport athletes tend to get hurt more, so luckily I've been on the side of not being hurt, so that's helped me a lot," said Smith.
Smith heard correctly. A recent study from the University of Wisconsin shows one-sport athletes are twice as likely to report a serious lower body injury than multi-sport athletes.
That's not surprising to University of Virginia men's basketball strength and conditioning coach, Mike Curtis.
"I think we can attribute some of the specialization to some of those injuries, just based on wear patterns. If you do the same thing every day, multiple times a day, eventually you're going to have some type of wear patterns that take place," said Curtis.
That's why Curtis trains area kids at Adapt, an athletic performance center.
"I work in a sport that is dominated by AAU and high volume of games. One of the things that was the impetus for us starting ADAPT was I was seeing that there were overuse injuries attributed to the high volume of games, and early specialization that is common in that sport," said Curtis.
Most of those over-use injuries are to the ankle or the knee, and can have a major impact on an athlete's career. That's why Adapt focuses on the kind of varied movement meant to keep kids healthy while they improve.
There is also mental fatigue to consider. Switching up sports keeps the mind fresh, something that has been a hallmark of Isiah Smith's time at Madison County.
"It's an easy transition because I'm used to the same schedule every day, so I keep going to the next sport," said Smith.