Robert LaPrade, MD, PhD, Colorado Knee Specialist and Chief Medical Officer at the Steadman Philippon Research Institute, participated in the study “ When Is It Too Early for Single Sport Specialization?” This was a collaborative project from the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) Research Committee that was recently published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine. Although the data for this project was limited, there is evidence that early sport specialization may put young athletes at risk for overuse injuries. Further research is needed to determine other injury patterns in youth athletes and their long-term consequences.
“The problem of early sports specialization among young athletes in our country is becoming an epidemic. In addition to increasing the injury rates among these young athletes and increasing our overall health care costs, it also appears to be limiting them in their overall skill levels. Almost all of the first round draft picks in the recent NFL draft were multisport athletes,” said Dr. LaPrade. Over the past 15 years, there has been an increase in youth sports participation along with an increase in early year-round training for a single sport. There is a perception among parents and coaches that early sport specialization gives youth athletes a competitive advantage for athletic scholarships and potential professional status. This study highlights the risk factors of early specialization in sports including ice hockey, swimming, gymnastics, and baseball.