01 Nov Is Early Specialization Bad for Youth Athletes?
“It depends” always is the safe answer.
Whenever a performance coach is asked a tough question, they resort to this answer so they do not get attacked. Mind you, early specialization vs. early sampling is a sensitive topic and triggers some folks who are doing the former. The extensive literature is there on why early specialization leads to overuse, burnout, and isn’t helping the ACL epidemic get any better.
While I’m a big supporter of kids playing multiple sports, there are some things everyone needs to keep in mind:
1. Youth athletes must strength train year-round. If sport specific load is greater than muscle and tissue strength, then injury occurs. It’s basic physics and exercise physiology.
2. Kids need an off-season, and preferably, three months. The year-round grind of a single sport doesn’t give young athletes the variety their bodies crave.
3. Two sports that are similar in actions should not be done in the same season. If a kid is playing two travel sports (i.e. soccer and lacrosse) in the same season do not be surprised if they suffer from stress fractures, groin pulls, IT band syndrome, or patellar tendon pain from the continuous impact and high velocity movements.
My answer isn’t “it depends,” but rather, consider these three pointers above.
Check out this video for more:
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