Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Early Sport Specialization

Popular culture pushes the idea that to succeed at sports, children need to know at a very early age what sport they want to commit themselves to for the rest of their lives in order to get that future scholarship or to reach the professional ranks.

While there are a few athletes that have benefited from early specialization, there are more studies coming out that show that it doesn't necessarily give your child an edge and can often be bad for their physical and mental health.

Many pediatricians agree that children should be participating in a variety of activities in order to develop a wider range of skills and to help them become a well-rounded athlete.  Playing a variety of different sports throughout the year is a form of cross-training that is extremely beneficial to a young body's physical development.

Common issues with early specialization:

Overuse Injuries - Using the body the same way over and over again can lead to stress fractures, tendonitis and growth plate injuries that occur when the body uses repetitive motion and is not allowed to rest. 

Burnout - occurs when athletes push their bodies too hard with little or no recovery period.

Early retirement from training and competition - Sometimes young athletes can get so discouraged by injuries, burnout and competition that they lose all interest because they no longer find the sport enjoyable. 

The recommended age for sport specialization is around 12 or 13 years of age and until then children should be encouraged to participate in a variety of sports and overall, have some fun.

References from the SIRC Collection

1. Callender S. The Early Specialization of Youth in Sports. Athletic Training & Sports Health Care: The Journal For The Practicing Clinician. November 2010;2(6):255-257. 
2. Capranica L, Millard-Stafford M. Youth Sport Specialization: How to Manage Competition and Training?. International Journal Of Sports Physiology & Performance. December 2011;6(4):572-579. 3. DiFiori J. Evaluation of Overuse Injuries in Children and Adolescents. Current Sports Medicine Reports (American College Of Sports Medicine). November 2010;9(6):372-378 
4. Jones L, Petlichkoff L. Early Sport Specialization Versus Quality Physical Education. Chronicle Of Kinesiology & Physical Education In Higher Education. May 2008;19(2):5-7. 
5. Malina R. Early Sport Specialization: Roots, Effectiveness, Risks. Current Sports Medicine Reports (American College Of Sports Medicine. November 2010;9(6):364-371. 
6. Wiersma L. Risks and benefits of youth sport specialization: perspectives and recommendations. / Benefices et risques de la specialisation sportive des jeunes: perspectives et recommandations. Pediatric Exercise Science. February 2000;12(1):13-22.