Good Or Bad: Sport Specialization In Youth Athletes

Coach Chad here at Back In Motion Physical Therapy & Performance, and today we're going to talk about sports specialization.


The purpose of this article is to discuss the difference between sport specialization and diversification in youth athletes specifically the effect these methods have on injuries, development, skill acquisition, and psychological aspects.


The Problem With Early Sport Specialization


Sports specialization is when an athlete plays only one sport with the exclusion of other sports year-round.


Sports specialization can cause a number of problems.


  1. Increased risk of injury: What separates young athletes from mature athletes is the fact that children are still growing and repeating the same movements in the sport over and over and can cause a plethora of overuse injuries.
  2. Psychological stress: An athlete doesn't feel like they're performing well enough or they're stressed out because it's the only sport they play. So they can get psychological effects and depressed that they're not playing well during a game or practice.
  3. Burn-Out: Early sport specialization is not only physically difficult but mentally as well. Burn-out causes a decrease in performance and an increase of injuries resulting in depression or withdrawal from the sport.
  4. Quitting: The athlete then ends up quitting the sport because their body's tired, they're not performing well, and lack interest. They're just not performing at a higher caliber than they want to play or their friends, are playing better them.


So definitely can be a huge problem when kids start quitting too early because they're just getting burnt out. It's a huge problem we hate to see it because a lot of kids do have the potential to become really well in the sport and excel.


It's just they end up quitting too early. So that's a huge problem that I see with a lot of athletes, especially younger athletes when they specialize in just one sport.


Many studies and research have also shown over time that early sport specialization has no correlation to whether an athlete goes on to become pro. Early specialization is not an essential component of elite athletic development.


Benefits of Sport Diversification


So now it comes to sport diversification. Sport diversification is when athletes play more than one sport.


They play multiple sports throughout the year for example track in the spring, and then you do football in the fall.


This method exposes children to a multitude of sports with a focus on playing instead of practicing.


Here is a list of benefits of early sports diversification:


  1. Decrease risk of injury
  2. Using different muscle groups
  3. You're not burning out all the muscle groups playing one sport.
  4. Increased motivation
  5. Decreased burn-out
  6. Cognitive Skill increase


You're basically going to have more skill and coordination over time.


Here At Back In Motion…


At Back in Motion our Sports Training Programs in Fort Myers, FL, offers so much as far as athletes and young athletes.


With our younger athletes, we approach sport diversification early on and gradually transfer over to sports specifications when they are older.


Diversification in sports at an early age can help adapt and develop multiple motor skills that may crossover between sports.


However, only once the mental, physical, and social aspects of a child are fully developed can specialization can be considered.


We spend one-on-one time with these young athletes and small groups so that way we can focus on their form and technique so well that they will prevent injury because we're strengthening the joints, we're strengthening the tendons, and strengthening the muscles.


So that way, they're getting that one-on-one attention that they deserve and they need to excel in the sport to prevent any injuries in the future and overall just getting stronger physically and mentally.


Most importantly, unlike traditional sport performance facilities, our programs are overseen by a Doctor of Physical Therapy ensuring your athlete is exercising safely and properly! We have physical therapy in Fort Myers and physical therapy in Cape Coral.


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About the Author: Dr. Scott Gray

Dr. Scott Gray is the Owner of Back in Motion Physical Therapy & Performance. Each and Every Week He Helps His Clients & Patients Live Their Life to the Fullest, Get Active, and Get Pain-Free.
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