Youth sports participation continues to grow as younger ages are included and additional groups form. With this growth comes an increased risk for youth sports injuries, and the majority of these are related to overuse injuries. The growth of specialization contradicts the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine who strongly oppose adolescent specialization. A study¹ of more than 1000 patients between 7-18 years of age demonstrated a 60% specialization, typically by age 12. Combined with the finding² that playing a single sport more than 8 months per year is correlated with serious joint injuries, and we can see growing problem.
The desire to compete professionally typically drives the industry of specialization. But, this is contradictory to the fact that the overwhelming majority of professional athletes were multi-sport athletes in high school. In fact, 30 of the 32 players drafted in 1st round of the 2017 NFL draft³ were multi-sport athletes.
Delaying specializing while you participate in multiple sports allows you to develop other skills and athletic dexterity while decreasing risk of overuse injury and burnout. So, lets listen to the pros and the medical experts and try to play as many different sports as we can. You will be a more well rounded athlete and enjoy a more injury free playing career.
¹Jayanthi NA, LaBella CR, Fischer D, Pasulka J, Dugas LR. Sports-specialized intensive training and the risk of injury in young athletes: clinical case-control study. Am J Sports Med. 2015;43-794-801.
²Bell DR, Post EG, Trigsted SM, Hetzel S, McGuine TA, Brooks MA. Prevalence of sport specialization in high school athletics: a 1-year observational study. Am J Sports Med. 2016;44:1469-1474.
²Hall R, Barber Foss K, Hewett TEd, Myer GD. Sport specialization’s association with an increased risk of developing anterior knee pain in adolescent female athletes. J Sport Rehabil. 2015;24:31-35.