Young athletes have a significant risk of injury. A recent study questioned whether specific factors could be associated with increased levels of risk.
Presented at the 2013 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Florida, the study featured 1,206 athletes aged 8–18. Participants completed a questionnaire that asked about sports specialization; stage of puberty; and height and weight. Researchers collected the same data on the athletes every 6 months for 3 years.
There were 837 injured participants and 859 unique injuries throughout the intervention. Injured athletes tended to be older (average age 14) than uninjured athletes and reported a higher volume of organized sports play and of other physical activities such as gym-based exercise or free play. Injured athletes also specialized more than uninjured athletes. The most commonly injured sites were the knee, ankle and low back. The head (concussion), shoulder and hip were also vulnerable.
“Injured young athletes are older and spend more total sports hours/week and [do more] hours/week of organized sports,” explained the study authors. “There is an independent risk of injury in athletes that are more specialized, even when accounting for hours/week of sports participation and age.”