Sports Specialization in Kids
In our Physical Therapy practice, we continue to see early sports specialization in our youth athletes (pre pubescent). These athletes focus on playing one sport >8 months out of the year instead of changing sports more frequently or incorporating longer periods of rest. Despite scientific evidence showing a lack of performance benefit and a higher injury risk among these "specialized" athletes this trend continues to rise across our country.
Recently the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine provided a consensus statement in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine (LaPrade et al. 2016) regarding youth athletes and early sports specialization. Experts in the field stated there was "no evidence that young children will benefit from early specialization in the majority of sports". The authors went on to note the available evidence indicates athletes who specialize early are at risk for overuse injury and burnout. Importantly, they noted multi sport athletes are not at risk of reduced performance in their future careers.
Coaches and parents are encouraged to allow extended rest periods and/or multi sport participation among their youth athletes.