Dec 8, 2022
Does Sport Specialization Lead to Overuse Injuries?

According to research from the National Council of Youth Sports, sports specialization leads to higher injury rates – particularly overuse injuries.

Orthopedic surgeon Rowland B. Mayor, MD, adult and pediatric sports medicine specialist with Hartford HealthCare’s Bone & Joint Institute, notes that sprains, strains and breaks are going to happen to athletes, regardless of which sport they play. Accidents happen.

specializationA recent story from shared the details that support the idea that sports specialization leads to overuse injuries.

Below is an excerpt from the story.

But injuries caused by overuse, most typically to the shoulder, elbow or knee, are often the result of early specialization – a singular focus on one sport with year-round training from an increasingly earlier age.

The statistics tell the story:

  • More than half of the 7 million sports and recreation-related injuries that occur each year are sustained by youth under 24.
  • High school athletes experience an estimated 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations each year.

One study showed a link between overuse injuries and three risk factors:

  • A “high” level of sports specialization
  • Playing a single sport more than eight months of the year
  • Playing a single sport for more hours per week than their age

A review paper exploring pediatric overuse injuries describes how specialization may lead to overuse injuries throughout the body of a growing child, including the shoulders, elbows, low back, hips, knees, and feet.

  • Baseball (particularly with shoulder and elbow injuries linked to pitching)
  • Basketball (jumper’s knee)
  • Gymnastics (back, elbow, and ankle injuries)
  • Running (plantar fasciitis and knee injuries)
  • Soccer (knee and ankle injuries)
  • Tennis (elbow injuries)
  • Volleyball (jumper’s knee)

To read the full story about sports specialization leading to overuse injuries from, click here. 

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