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Sports Specialization Ups Injury Risk, Especially in Girls

Volume of vigorous activity is a strong predictor of injuries for both boys and girls

FRIDAY, Sept. 27, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Sports specialization is associated with a greater volume of vigorous sports activity and increased risk of injury, according to a study published online Sept. 18 in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine.

Alison E. Field, Sc.D., from the Brown University School of Public Health in Providence, Rhode Island, and colleagues used data from the Growing Up Today Study (10,138 older children and teens). Questionnaires completed in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2001 assessed children’s activity and injuries (stress fracture, tendinitis, chondromalacia patella, anterior cruciate ligament tear, or osteochondritis dissecans or osteochondral defect). Sports specialization was defined as engaging in a single sport in the fall, winter, and spring.

The researchers found that girls who engaged in sports specialization were at increased risk of injury (hazard ratio, 1.31), although risk varied by sport. In both sexes, sports specialization was associated with greater volume of physical activity. Regardless of other variables, total hours per week of vigorous activity predicted incident injury (hazard ratios, 1.04 for boys and 1.06 for girls). Among girls, there was a significantly increased risk of injury even among those engaging in 3.0 to 3.9 hours of activity per week less than their age (hazard ratio, 1.93). There was no clear pattern of risk in boys.

“Parents, coaches, and medical providers need to be made aware of the volume threshold above which physical activity is excessive,” the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to OrthoPediatrics, Smith + Nephew, and Stryker.

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