Researchers at the Brown University School of Public Health and Boston Children’s Hospital have recently published a study that shows that greater specialization in sports – that is focusing on playing one sport exclusively – leads to higher chances of injury amongst female youth. The study was published in Orthopedic Sports Medicine and was led by Dr. Alison Field, a professor of epidemiology and the chair of the Department of Epidemiology at Brown. The researchers used data from the Growing Up Today study – which is a prospective cohort study of youth and their mothers across the United States.
Data for male and female youth was assessed from questionnaires delivered in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2001. Sports specialization was defined as playing one sport throughout the year (during fall, winter and spring). Injury outcomes were provided by the mothers of the respondents, who are registered nurses.
The authors found that amongst females, those who specialized in one sport, engaged in more hours playing sports and both sports specialization and number of hours engaged in playing sports were predictive of developing an injury. Amongst the females the risk of injury with sports specialization was not due to any particular sport. Whereas, among the males those specializing in baseball, cheerleading, or gymnastics were more likely to sustain an injury. However amongst both males and females, the more hours per week an adolescent played basketball, soccer, running, or gymnastics, the higher his or her risk of injury.
The authors suggest we need to change the cultural norms around youth sports and lower the number of hours that young athletes spend in practice.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on October 04