INDIANAPOLIS – A new study by Indiana University researchers focuses on how certain sports impact an athlete’s bone health.

The study found that some sports are better for young players’ bones and can help prevent bone-related injuries as they get older. The research found that sports like basketball or soccer are better for bone health than just running alone.

Stuart Warden, who is the associate dean for Research and chancellor’s professor in the IU School of Health and Human Sciences at IUPUI, said sports like basketball and soccer are considered “multidirectional” sports, as opposed to other athletic activities like running, cycling or swimming, which are considered “unidirectional” sports.

Warden said the study shows that multidirectional sports help bones grow more than unidirectional ones. Bigger, stronger bones means less injuries.

“A lot of people talk about bone mass and bone density from a standpoint of osteoporosis, that’s very important as we age,” Warden described. “But it’s also important in the younger athletes to have a bigger and stronger skeleton because it makes them more resistant to developing a bone stress injury or stress fracture.”

This new research shows that multidirectional sports could help prevent certain bone injuries while only practicing sports like track or cross country could increase the risk of these damages.

“You really want to load these bones in lots of different directions multiple times a day,” Warden said. “Let the bone cells wake up again and let them respond again and hit them with another exercise again. That’s sort of what doesn’t happen during swimming. That’s why multi directional sports are important because they load yourselves in different directions, you’re getting adaptations to different directions and you’re developing a more robust figure skeleton.”

Warden encourages athletes to do multiple sports, and not specialize in any given sport at too early of an age.

“Really that pubertal period is really important for them to sport sample,” he said. “That means not just play one sport 12 months of the year. Give them these down periods. Play a different sport and in the long term that’s going to be more beneficial than if we just let them pitch, pitch, pitch.”

Warden and other researchers encourage athletes to wait to specialize in a certain sport until they are high school, after puberty.

“Before that they are still growing too much,” he said. “They’ve got so much change in their body you need to have them some more rest.”