Research Article Summary by Arli Lindskog and Sam Smith (WSU DPT Students)
Article: Post EG, Trigsted SM, Riekena JW, Hetzel S, McGuine TA, Brooks MA, and the Bell DR.
The Association of Sport Specialization and Training Volume With Injury History in Youth Athletes. American Journal Sports Med, 2017 May;45(6)
The relationship between single sport athletes and injuries is becoming a prominent discussion. Children become more specialized in a single sport year round as the focus on scholarships and becoming the next sports star grows. Therapists are seeing a rise in the number of young athletes with injuries and there is speculation that this may relate to the single sport focus. Current recommendations say we should limit children from practicing a single sport more than 8 months each year and for less than their age in hours per week. There is limited research to enforce these recommendations, so the purpose of this study was to better understand the relationship between sports play and injuries in young athletes.
In this study, it was hypothesized that adolescent athletes who specialize in a sport will have a history of overuse injuries independent of sex, age, or weekly training hours. Additionally, it is hypothesized that you are more likely to have a history of sports injuries and overuse injuries if you exceed the current recommendations for sport volume.
This study was conducted using a survey sent to over 2000 youth. Survey questions targeted information on the degree of specialization, how often both yearly and weekly they practice, and their injury history. Using a low, moderate, and a high 3 point scale, the athletes were grouped by whether they met or surpassed the current recommendations for sport volume.
A total of 2011 surveys were completed by 989 females and 1022 males between the ages of 12 and 18. Results of this study found that highly specialized athletes were more likely to report previous injury (P,.001; OR, 1.59; 95% CI. 1/26-2/02) or overuse injuries (P=.011; OR, 1.45; 95% CI, 1.07-1.99) in the previous year compared to athletes who were not as specialized. Athletes who participated in a single sport for more than eight months were more likely to report an upper or lower extremity injury.
The study concluded with suggestions for approaching single sport athletes. Young athletes regardless of age and sex are at higher chances for overuse injuries if they exceed recommended volumes (more than 8 months a year in a sport or more than their age in hours/week). Educating parents and coaches on the risks of overuse injuries can help prevent unnecessary injuries from occurring.