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The Danger of Specializing in Sports Too Soon

An increase in sports specialization in young athletes has led to the drastic rise of injuries in youth sports. The pressure on athletes from parents, coaches and the athletes themselves to reach the pro ranks is pigeonholing kids as young as 10 years old into a single sport. Camps, travel teams and off-season practices are packing on the hours for young athletes whose bodies are not ready to be practicing all-year-round like the professional athletes they look up to. Kids are not just playing one sport for a few months anymore, rather they play that same sports for over 3/4 of the year. Injuries that were once only seen in elite athletes are now becoming common among many young athletes such as ACL tears.

The facts: 

  • A study at Loyola University found that young athletes who specialize in one sport are 70%-93% more likely to be injured compared to those who play a variety of sports. 
  • Ohio State University found that young athletes who specialize too soon are more likely to burn out and quit as well as have a higher rate of adult physical inactivity.
  • The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia reported they treated 400% more ACL injuries in 2012 than they did in1999. ACL injuries used to be a fairly uncommon injury in young athletes, but they are now one of the most prevalent. 
  • Dr. Micheli, the Director of Sports Medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston, reported that nearly 25 years ago only 10% of youth sports injuries he treated were overuse youth injuries. Today however, overuse injuries represent 70% of all youth injury cases he sees.

Recommendations for young athletes:

  • Athletes should take a 2-3 month break from their sport. The break could be spread throughout the year (i.e. 1 month break 2-3 times a year) or take place all at once.
  • Athletes should avoid specializing in one sport before they reach puberty.
  • 1-2 days off per week is necessary to help prevent injury and allow time for muscle recovery.
  • Unstructured free play is important for young athletes throughout the year.
  • A variety in activity is key as the athlete stays active all year.


The medical information on this site is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. 
Please consult your health care provider, or contact Viverant for an appointment before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition. Viverant shall have no liability, for any damages, loss, injury, or liability whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained in this site.

Posted by vivadmin at 8/17/2016 6:15:00 PM
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