New survey finds athletes specializing at a younger age

March 14, 2017 / Athletic AdministrationCoaching
A new survey conducted by the Rothman Institute has found that today’s high school athletes began specializing in a single sport much earlier than those who came before them.

Sport specialization has been linked to increasing injury rates, most recently in a study published by Emory Sports Medicine. But regardless of the evidence suggesting multi-sport participation is beneficial to young athletes, kids continue to narrowly focus on a single sport.

The Rothman survey involved 3,090 athletes. Here are some highlights:

• 46.3% of high school athletes; 67.7% of collegiate athletes and 45.9% of professional athletes specialized to play a single sport during their childhood and adolescence. The high school athletes said they began to specialize at 12.7 years of age, two years younger than college athletes (14.8) and pro athletes (14.7).

• 61.7% of professional athletes indicated that they believe specialization helps athletes play at a higher level versus 79.7% of high school athletes and 80.6% of collegiate athletes.

• Only 22.3% of professional athletes said they would want their own child to specialize in one sport during childhood/adolescence.

The same survey found that 40% of high school athletes reported suffering a sports-related injury, compared to 42% at the collegiate level and just 25.4% at the professional level.

Researchers concluded that the findings “challenge the notion that success at an elite level requires athletes to specialize in one sport at a very young age.” 

Click here to read more about the Rothman study.

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