To prevent injuries, it is critical that coaches and parents are better educated about the effects of specialization in a single sport, according to a recent study.

The study was presented during the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s Annual Meeting in Toronto.

In the study, led by Timothy A. McGuine, PhD, ATC from the University of Wisconsin, 1,544 high school-age individuals from the 2015-2016 academic year (50% female, average age: 16 years) were asked to complete a questionnaire that identified their sports participation, history of injury, and level of specialization (low, moderate, high) based on a three-item scale previously published. An athletic trainer reviewed the questionnaires before placing them in the study.

As part of the questionnaire, the participants were asked to report all interscholastic and club sports participation during the previous 12 months and any activity that they planned to participate in during the upcoming school year, according to a media release from the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine.

The release notes that the participants competed in 167,349 athletic exposures. A total of 490 (31.7%) reported sustaining a previous loss of practice/playing time due to a lower extremity injury (LEI) while 759 (49.2%) participated in their primary sport in a league outside of their high school. During the study time-period, 15% or 235 individuals sustained 276 lower extremity injuries causing them to miss an average of seven days of participation.

Injuries occurred most often in the ankle (34%), knee (25%) and upper leg (13%) and included ligament sprains (41%), muscle/tendon strains (25%) and tendonitis/tenosynovitis (20%). Soccer was the sport with the highest percentage of athletes being highly specialized with 265 subjects reporting that they had competed in more than 60 competitions within the last year in their primary sport. Players whose primary sports were basketball, football, and soccer sustained more lower extremity injuries than their peers who were in baseball, tennis, track, volleyball, or wrestling.

“Our results demonstrated that athletes who classified themselves as moderately specialized had a 50% higher incidence of LEI and athletes who had a high specialization classification had an 85% higher incidence of LEI,” McGuine states in the release.

“Sport specialization appears to be an independent risk factor for injury, as opposed to simply being a function of increased sport exposure. Athletic associations, school administrators, coaches and sports medicine providers need to better educate parents and their athletes on the increased chances of injury risk and provide more opportunities for diversified athletic play,” he adds.

[Source(s): American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, PRWeb]