Sports Specialization Hurts Girls More Than Boys Interview with:

Alison E. Field, ScD Professor and Chair of Epidemiology Brown University School of Public Heath Providence, RI 

Prof. Field

Alison E. Field, ScD
Professor and Chair of Epidemiology
Brown University School of Public Heath
Providence, RI What is the background for this study?

Response: Over past couple of decades there has been a large change in youth sports from playing different sports in each season to more and more specialization where children are playing the same sport for three or more seasons. The concern with that change is that specialization at young ages will lead to more injuries, as well as athlete burnout. What are the main findings? 

Response: We found that among the 10, 138 adolescents we studied, sport specialization was common and associated with more time spent playing a sport. Both specialization and hours per week engaged in sports increased the risk of injury among the females. Among the males, hours per week playing sports explained the association with sports specialization. In other words, after we took into account the hours per week the youth was playing sports, the association with specialization was no longer a significant predictor of injury among the boys. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Being active is good for your health, but you can have too much of a good thing. We need coaches, parents, and adolescents to scale back their expectations of young athletes. Training is important for any sport, but we need to make sure that youth are not spending too many hours per week playing their sport. It would also be advisable to have athletes engage in multiple types of activity rather than playing the same sport throughout the year at high intensity. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: There are many studies that still need to be done. Future research should investigate whether conditioning, flexibility, and/or balance training can lessen some of the risks we see with sports specialization. We also need research to determine the ideal mix of training and how it should vary by age and sex. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Yes, although we found that adolescent females who specialize in one sport are at increased risk of injury, parents and coaches should not interpret the results to mean that they should add another sport to a young athlete’s program to decrease risk. We found that both specialization and hours engaged in sports increased injury. 


Alison E. Field, Frances A. Tepolt, Daniel S. Yang, Mininder S. Kocher. Injury Risk Associated With Sports Specialization and Activity Volume in Youth. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 2019; 7 (9): 232596711987012 DOI: 10.1177/2325967119870124 


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Last Updated on September 24, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD