MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Michael G. Ciccotti, MD
Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery
Chief of Sports Medicine, and
Director of the Sports Medicine Fellowship
Thomas Jefferson University
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: No doubt sports plays a huge role in the United States and all over world with millions of young people between the ages 6 and 18 participating in an organized sport on a regular basis.
Over the past decade, there has been a tremendous focus on youth single sport specialization (SSS), with pressure from coaches, parents and the athletes themselves to participate in one sport year round. Many participants, coaches and parents believe that early specialization may allow the young athlete to become better and progress more quickly in their sport, perhaps allowing them a greater chance of becoming a professional athlete. This drive toward early specialization has been fueled by popular icons i.e. Tiger Woods (golf) and Lionel “Leo” Messi (soccer) as well as by media hits such as Friday Night Tykes (young football players) and The Short Game (7-year old golfers). The pop-psych writer, Malcolm Gladwell, whose The 10,000 Hour Rule (in his book Outliers) holds that 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” are needed to become world-class in any field may have also encouraged the specialization trend.
There is little doubt that youth sports may encourage a lifelong interest in a healthy lifestyle as well as improved self-esteem and social relationships. The flip side is that extreme training and singular focus on a sport can lead to stress on the developing musculo-skeletal system, a pressure to succeed at all costs, reduced fun, burnout and sometimes social isolation.
The dilemma we are beginning to scratch the surface of is does single sport specialization enhance the likelihood of getting to an elite level and does it increase the risk of injury? There is a growing sense in the medical community that SSS raises injury risk without enhancing progression to a higher level.