THE RISKS OF SPORTS
SPECIALIZATION AND RAPID GROWTH IN YOUNG ATHLETES
Jayanthi NA, Pinkham,
C, Luke, A
Loyola University Medical
Center, Maywood, Illinois
determine if young athletes (<18 y/o have a greater risk for injury
if they specialize in a single sport.
To determine if young athletes going through periods of rapid growth
have a greater risk of injury.
Methods and Study Design:
Prospective Cohort Study.
Phase I: Young athletes (<18 y/o) who presented to sports medicine
clinics for a sports-related injury were compared to healthy
athletes who presented for sports physicals. All consented
participants completed a baseline survey evaluating sports
participation and degree of sports specialization, height, and
weight. Retrospective height and weight information were obtained
from electronic medical records, if available, to calculate growth
rate. Injured participants completed an injury survey
regarding their training and injury and were compared to the
uninjured control group for factors of interest.
Phase II: Longitudinal follow-up measurements of height and
weight, sports training changes, and new injuries will be obtained.
participants were recruited, 93 male and 63 female (ages 10-18, mean
age = 13.) The groups appeared balanced at baseline, with no
significant differences between injured (n=85) and uninjured cohorts
(n=65) with respect to height, weight, BMI, number of sports played,
and age. Two relationships trended toward significance: the injured
cohort spent more hours per week playing sports (19.8 hrs/wk vs 17.0
hrs/wk, P = 0.09) and more hours per week in organized
sports (11.0 hrs/wk vs 8.8 hrs/wk, P = 0.07). The mean
specialization score was higher for the injured group (injured
=3.49,, uninjured = 2.75, P = 0.015). There was a significant
difference between injured and uninjured groups when stratified by
specialization score with 60.38% of those with injury being highly
specialized (P = 0.009). There was no difference in the mean
growth rate in the uninjured cohort (4.1 cm/yr) versus the injured
cohort (4.7 cm/yr), (P = 0.41).
More highly specialized participation
in sports may be a risk for development of injury in young athletes.
This effect may be influenced by training intensity, reflected in
annual weekly hours of sports participation and in organized sports.
was no apparent relationship between rapid growth and development of
injury in this sample using retrospective growth data. This
relationship will be further and more properly evaluated during the
prospective longitudinal portion of our study.
Significance of Findings:
Health care providers of young
athletes should advise them to exercise caution during specialized
training. The true risk of sports participation during rapid growth
periods has yet to be quantified.
Loyola Pediatric, Family Medicine, and
Sports Medicine clinics for providing controls and injured subjects.
Stefani Higgins, Department of Family Medicine, for administrative
Contact Courtney Pinkham at