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Factors That Drive Youth Specialization.


ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND:Specialization in young athletes has been linked to overuse injuries, burnout, and decreased satisfaction. Despite continued opposition from the medical community, epidemiological studies suggest the frequency is increasing. HYPOTHESIS:Extrinsic pressures in addition to individual aspirations drive this national trend in sports specialization. STUDY DESIGN:Descriptive epidemiology study. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE:Level 3. METHODS:A novel instrument assessing the driving factors behind youth specialization was generated by an interdisciplinary team of medical professionals. Surveys were administered to patients and athletes in the department's sports medicine clinic. RESULTS:The survey was completed by 235 athletes between 7 and 18 years of age, with a mean age of 13.8 ± 3.0 years. Athletes specialized at a mean age of 8.1 years, and 31% of athletes played a single sport while 58% played multiple sports but had a preferred sport. More than 70% of athletes had collegiate or professional ambitions, and 60% played their primary sport for 9 or more months per year, with players who had an injury history more likely to play year-round ( P < 0.01). Approximately one-third of players reported being told by a coach not to participate in other sports, with specialized athletes reporting this significantly more often ( P = 0.04). Half of the athletes reported that sports interfered with their academic performance, with older players stating this more frequently ( P < 0.01). CONCLUSION:Young athletes are increasingly specializing in a single sport before starting high school. While intrinsic drive may identify healthy aspirations, extrinsic influences are prevalent in specialized athletes. CLINICAL RELEVANCE:Extrinsic factors contributing to youth specialization were identified and compounded the deleterious sequelae of youth athlete specialization.

SUBMITTER: Padaki AS 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC5665117 | BioStudies | 2017-01-01T00:00:00Z

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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