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The Cultural Trend of Sports Specialization in Youth: What You Should Know

The Cultural Trend of Sports Specialization in Youth:  What You Should Know   There is no doubt that organized sports can be a very positive experience for young people offering fitness benefits (greater cardiovascular health, bone mass, strength, prevention of obesity and type II diabetes), improved coordination and athletic skills, self esteem and social interaction skills in addition to just being a healthy outlet for fun!  Youth participation in sports has changed dramatically in the past 3 decades.  Participation has increased by more than sixfold.  Girls have become more involved in athletics and there has been significant study of the female athlete’s vulnerability to specific injuries.   Including both genders between the ages of 5 and 14, sports related injuries have increased to estimated numbers of 3.5 million a year.  Within this great increase of participation in youth sports, has grown a trend of “sports specialization” occurring in younger and younger age groups.  This phenomenon is when young athletes “self select” to focus on a year round single sport participation.  Children and adolescents who choose one specific sport face increasing quantity and specificity of stresses on their growing bodies due to the constant exposure of that one sport or training required for that one sport.  As professionals in the medical field and specialists in the sports medicine arena, we are noting that we have within our community two large populations of children:  Ones who are inactive and face the threat of obesity and another growing large group of increasingly specializing sport youth who are at risk of developing injury due to overuse in a skeletally immature body.  Did you know...