One-Sport Focus Puts Teens at Higher Risk for Injury

August 28, 2015 in STSMPT

As young athletes age and advance to higher levels of competition, athletes become increasingly dedicated both in hours per week and in weeks per year focused on a single sport. Year-round practice is becoming more common in more sports, but what are the effects on our children? Some objective answers are provided by a research study published earlier this year in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.


Dr. Neeru Jayanthi and colleagues studied a group of student athletes age 7-18. They found that injuries become more common with age, with the increased prevalence beginning around age 14. The study finds that most injures (65%) are overuse injuries such as tendinosis or stress fractures, as opposed to traumatic injuries such as broken bones from a fall. Most importantly, the research shows that the biggest risk factor for sports injuries is more hours per week dedicated to one sport. Twenty hours per week seems to be the danger zone.


Some guidelines have emerged. Consider limiting cases of early sports specialization. Consider limiting hours in a single sport to one hour per week / per year of age. For instance, a 14-year-old might play soccer for up to 14 hours per week, and a 16-year-old might play soccer for 16 hours per week. To not lose fitness or that competitive edge, consider other fun activities for strength and conditioning. Even for highly specialized and dedicated athletes, this advice may prove beneficial as it is intended to prevent overuse injury, ensuring optimal performance and long-term participation.


In commentary, the researchers also note that overuse injuries are not as benign as they are often believed to be. Overuse injuries can have long-term consequences, even for people who do not go on to college sports. Among student athletes, nagging pains should be addressed by a professional before they become overuse injuries. Often times, minor alterations in stretching and strengthening routines are all that is needed to keep a student athlete safe, happy, and at optimal performance.


Source: Jayanthi N, LaBella C, Fischer D, et al. Sports-specialized intensive training and the risk of injury in young athletes: a clinical case-control study. Am J Sports Med, April 2015; 43 (4): 794-801; Published online before print February 2, 2015, doi: 10.1177/0363546514567298.

Teens One Sport Injury

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