Kids who play more tag and a variety of pick-up games get injured less often than those who focus on a single sport, according to a new study.

Sports medicine specialist Dr. Neeru Jayanthi examined the health status of 891 children, including 618 athletes who were being treated for sports injuries and 273 healthy athletes who were getting sports physicals.

Comparing the kids who participated in some form of physical activity for a similar number of hours, the kids involved in more free play were less likely to be injured.

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“Our findings suggest that more participation in a variety of unorganized sports and free play may be protective of injury, particularly among tennis players,” Jayanthi said in a press release. Jayanthi is an associate professor at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Here’s how it broke down: The 74 kids who played tennis exclusively and got injured spent 12.6 hours per week playing organized tennis and 2.4 hours per week in free play. The tennis players who didn’t get hurt spent 9.7 hours on organized tennis and 4.3 hours in free play.

Comparing injured tennis players to healthy players of multiple sports resulted in a similar ratio: the hurt tennis players spent 5.3 times as much time playing tennis as they did in free play, and the healthy athletes spent 1.9 times as much time in their variety of organized sports as in free play.

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Jayanthi presented the findings at the Society for Tennis Medicine and Science and United States Tennis Association-Tennis Medicine and Injury Conference in Atlanta. Further study on the 618 athletes is ongoing.

Image: iStockphoto