Oct 23, 2019
Study: Multisport females have decreased likelihood for knee, hip injuries
From the NATA

The Journal of Athletic Training today released “Sport Specialization and Coordination Differences in Multisport Adolescent Female Basketball, Soccer, and Volleyball Athletes” as part of its special thematic issue focused on youth sport specialization.

With more than 30 million athletes participating either in individual or team sports, an increased emphasis has been placed on the success of youth athletes, which has increasingly pushed them to specialize. Females who sport-specialized demonstrated altered lower extremity (hips and knee) coordination relative to their multisport female athletes which may lead to less stable landings and an increased risk for injury.

Key takeaways

  • Sport specialization in adolescents is associated with an increased incidence of lower extremity injury in high school athletes as well as increased risk of patellofemoral (knee) pain in middle and high school female basketball, soccer and volleyball athletes.
  • Females who sport-specialized demonstrated altered lower extremity coordination, which may lead to less stable landings and an increased injury risk.
  • Multisport participation may facilitate improved coordination in youth female athletes.
  • Young athletes who specialize before maturation in a single sport may have limited potential for motor-skill and coordination development. Without opportunities for sport diversification during their growing years, young athletes may not fully develop neuromuscular coordination patterns that can protect against injury.
  • Youth athletes may be less able to handle the physical stresses that are associated with single-sport specialization than mature or adult athletes. This is due to the non-linear and sporadic growth in bone mineral and muscular and connective tissue strength that occurs before and during puberty.

“Females who specialize early in sports such as basketball, soccer and volleyball too early in age may hinder motor development and lead to compromised hip and knee coordination during dynamic landing and jumping activities, which can lead to increased chance of potentially life-altering injuries,” said lead author and biomechanist Christopher A. DiCesare, MS, CSCS, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “By understanding the influence that sport specialization has on coordination and the potential for injuries, there is the potential to make better decisions of when it may be appropriate to safely specialize in a sport.”

Data was collected from a total of 1,116 adolescent female basketball, soccer, and volleyball athletes. The study consisted of a three-dimensional motion-analysis assessment that included a drop–vertical-jump task. Participants were recruited mainly from local middle and high schools, but recruitment included local colleges as well.

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