By Ken Reed

A University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health study has found that high school athletes that specialize in one sport sustain lower-extremity injuries at a significantly higher rate than athletes who don’t specialize in a single sport.

“While we have long believed that sport specialization by high school athletes leads to an increased risk of overuse injury, this study confirms those beliefs about the potential risks of sport specialization,” said Bob Gardner, NFHS executive director.

“Coaches, parents and student-athletes need to be aware of the injury risks involved with an overemphasis in a single sport.”

The study revealed that athletes who specialize in one sport were twice as likely to report having suffered a lower-extremity injury in the past while participating in sports (46%) compared with athletes who did not specialize (24%). During the study itself, single-sport athletes sustained 60% more new lower-extremity injuries than their multi-sport contemporaries. Lower-extremity injuries primarily involved the knee and ankle.

Other research has shown that single-sport athletes also suffer from “burnout” at a higher degree than multi-sport athletes and also quit competitive athletics at a higher rate.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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