Sport specialization and injury history in youth athletes
There is a current concerning trend towards sport specialization in youth athletes. Recommendations exist to encourage safe youth participation in sports, however, limited evidence exists to support or refute these recommendations. This study provides further evidence of an association between sport specialization, increased sport training volume and injury history in youth athletes.
2011 adolescent athletes completed a questionnaire regarding their specialization status, sport participation volume, and injury history. Specialization was classified as low, moderate, or high using a previously published 3-point scale. Athletes were grouped into either meeting or exceeding current volume recommendations which stated; children participating in organized sports should not play 1 sport more than 8 months per year, no more hours per week than their age, and no more than 16 hours per week total.
The results found the odds of reporting a previous injury were 45% to 91% higher among highly specialized athletes compared with athletes in the low specialization category and 26% to 85% higher in the athletes who exceeded sport volume recommendations compared with athletes who met the recommendations.
These findings reinforce the use of the current guidelines and raise awareness to youth athletes and parents of the risks of specialization and excessive sport volume. The authors also suggest a model of early diversification of sport activities with a focus on unstructured play at a young age.
> From: Post et al., Am J Sports Med 45 (2017) 1405-1412. All rights reserved to The Author(s). Click here for the online summary.