There has been increasing interest recently in the sports medicine world regarding single sport specialization in young athletes. This has been a growing trend in the United States as young athletes compete for roster spots on elite teams and for college scholarships. There has been concern voiced that sport specialization may increase the risk of overuse-type injuries, but this has largely been based on conjecture and "expert opinion".
A recent article in The American Journal of Sports Medicine, however, has provided some of the best evidence we have that single sport specialization may not be in our young athletes' best interests. Dr Neeru Jayanthi, Dr Lara Dugas, and their research team from Loyola University in Chicago reviewed nearly 1200 young athletes, both injured and uninjured, to identify whether sport specialization played a role in the risk of injury in this population. They found that young athletes who participated in year-round intensive training in a single sport at the exclusion of other sports were 27% more likely to be injured overall and 36% more likely to suffer a serious overuse injury.
These findings are certainly concerning in the face of the growing trend of sport specialization and year-round training on multiple teams. This type of training may not give athletes adequate time to recover, and has a tendency to expose athletes to the same type of movement patterns repetitively, which may create muscle imbalances and overuse injuries. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Society for Sports Medicine both discourage single sport specialization in adolescents. However, the findings of this study further solidifies the notion that sport-specialization may be doing more harm than good to these athletes.