Increasing numbers of children are specializing in a single sport before age 14 hoping to receive a college scholarship or pursue a career in professional sport. This early intense participation may increase their injury risk during their athletic careers, according to researchers.
“Our research indicated that athletes who specialized in their varsity sport before the age of 14 were more likely to report a history of injuries and multiple college injuries during the course of their athletic career,” says Brian M. Cash, MD, from the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of California at Los Angeles, author of a study presented at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM)/Arthroscopy Association of North America (AANA) Specialty Day, held recently in Las Vegas.
Cash and his colleagues sent a voluntary survey to 652 athletes who participated in athletics at a single institution. Participants were asked about demographics, scholarship status, reasons for sports specialization, age of specialization, training volume, and injury/surgical history. A total of 202 surveys were available for analysis after some were excluded due to incomplete or incorrect survey completion. Injuries were defined as those which kept an athlete out of participation for more than one week.
High training volume was defined as greater than 28 hours per week during pre-high school years. 86.9% versus 74% of individuals who specialized early reported a history of injury, (64.6% versus 49.4%) reported multiple injuries and these athletes were held out of sport participation an average of 15.2 versus 7.0 weeks in those that did not specialize early. However, early specializers were also more likely to receive a college scholarship (92.9 versus 83.1%). Full-scholarship athletes were more likely to report multiple surgical injuries (11.7 versus 3.5%).
In addition, those who trained more than 28 hours per week in their varsity sport before high school were more likely to report multiple injuries (90.0 versus 56.7%). Individuals with a pre-high school training volume greater than 28 hours/week were not more likely to be recruited (90.0 versus 89%) or receive a scholarship (80% versus 74.5%), a media release from the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine explains.
“Sports participation is an excellent way for kids to maintain their health and possibly even receive a college scholarship. However, our research further highlights that avoiding sports specialization before the age of 14 and minimizing training time to less than 28 hours per week, may significantly minimize a child’s injury chances and promote long-term, athletic college or even elite success,” Cash advises in the release.
[Source(s): American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, Science Daily]