Do you have an athletic kiddo? Are they particularly interested in just one sport? This is called sports specialization and it is TOTALLY fine... unless your child is TOO YOUNG!
"Sports specialization in youth is defined as "engaging in a sport for at least three seasons a year at the exclusion of other sports, and early sports specialization occurs in children under the age of 12.
-Dr. Amy Buencamino
In a clinical report, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that "research suggests that they face a higher risk of overuse injuries from training, as well as increased potential for stress and burnout."
We understand that your kids have big goals like college scholarships, professional sports, or even the olympics, and we fully support those amazing ambitions! We just want athletes, parents, and coaches to understand that pursuing only one sport at too young of an age could be incredibly detrimental to their long term athletic ability.
Stats and Interesting Facts
The academy advocates banning the practice of ranking athletes nationally and recruiting for college before they reach their late high school years.
About 60 million children age 6-18 participate in organized sports annually, according to the 2008 National Council of Youth Sports. Of those, about 27 percent participated in only one sport, the council found. Increasingly, children specialize in one sport early and play year-round, often on multiple teams. By age 7, some participate in select or travel leagues that are independent of school-sponsored programs.
About 70 percent of children drop out of organized sports by age 13, research shows.
While many factors could account for the drop-out rate: "One reason could be pressure to perform better and lack of enjoyment due to a variety of reasons, including a lack of playing time," Dr. Brenner said.
As seen during the recent Olympic games in Rio, some sports—such as figure skating, rhythmic gymnastics and diving—may require early specialization because peak performance occurs before physical maturation. For these sports, more research is needed on the long-term health effects, according to the AAP.
Delay sports specialization until at least age 15-16 to minimize risks of overuse injury.
Encourage participation in multiple sports.
If a young athlete has decided to specialize in a single sport, a pediatrician should discuss the child's goals to determine whether they are appropriate and realistic.
Parents are encouraged to monitor the training and coaching environment of "elite" youth sports programs.
Encourage a young athlete to take off at least three months during the year, in increments of one month, from their particular sport. They can still remain active in other activities during this time.
Young athletes should take one to two days off per week to decrease chances of injury.
"Sports specialization decreases the opportunity to cross-train and gain physical benefits from other sports."
-Dr. Amy Buencamino