By Ken Reed
The trend toward specialization in youth sports continues unabated. This despite a lack of evidence showing specialization improves athletic performance. In fact, the limited research available in this area tips the scale the other way: Kids that specialize in a single sport at an early age have less athletic development than do their multi-sport peers.
“You rarely see someone who played only baseball all the way through go on to have a successful career in the big leagues,” says Eric Cressey, of Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, Massachusetts. Cressey believes you need to be a good athlete before you can be a good baseball player. Sports specialists suffer from a lack of athletic development, according to Cressey.
There’s another problem with sport specialization: It leads to more overuse injuries.
“We know it (specialization) leads to more injuries,” says Cressey. “The more kids play (a single sport), the more they get hurt before they turn 18.”
For example, according to a Sports Health review done in 2012, young baseball pitchers who throw more than 100 innings per year have 3.5 times more injuries than those who pitch less. Moreover, pitchers who throw more than eight months a year are five times more likely to require elbow or shoulder surgery. The results were similar for young people specializing in other sports.
Another issue with playing one sport basically year round is emotional burnout. Too many kids become burned out from the seemingly never-ending practices, personal training sessions, and games that they just quit their sport.
“I’ve always endorsed kids playing multiple sports,” says John Graham, CSCS, who operates the St. Luke’s Sports and Human Performance Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania. “It’s better for them from a physiological standpoint. The kids who play multiple sports become better athletically.”
We need more medical professionals, researchers, trainers, coaches and parents spreading the anti-specialization message.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Episode #20 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Youth and High School Sports Based On What’s Best for the Athlete’s Holistic Development – We chat with long-time youth, high school and college basketball coach Jim Huber.
Episode #19 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Capturing the Spirit of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with Anika Orrock – We discuss the hoops AAGPFL women had to jump through to play the game they loved as well as the long-term impact and legacy they have in advancing sports opportunities for girls and women.
Episode #18 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking about the 50th Anniversary of Title IX and the Lia Thomas Controversy with Nancy Hogshead-Makar – Hogshead-Makar is a triple gold medalist in swimming, a civil rights attorney and CEO of Champion Women.
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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