In a small cohort of youth baseball players, sport specialization correlated with throwing-related arm injuries, according to recently published results.
“This study was the first to show that youth baseball players sustained throwing-related arm injuries at a similar rate to their adolescent counterparts,” Amanda J. Arnold, PhD, DPT, OCS, SCS, told Healio.com/Orthopedics. “Youth players who specialized in baseball demonstrated a higher frequency of arm injuries when compared to non-specialized players. These findings were concerning considering that nearly 60% of the youth baseball players in this study were unaware of their specialization status.”
Arnold and colleagues identified 159 asymptomatic youth baseball players from Greenville, South Carolina who participated in youth baseball programs and tournaments. Baseball players were assessed physically and prospectively followed for 6.7 months. Investigators initially recorded athlete demographics and playing and injury histories. They prospectively tracked athlete exposure and presence of an arm injury. Parents and players were asked to classify the player as either a specialized athlete or non-specialized athlete based on their perceptions of the definition for a specialized athlete. Researchers then classified the players based on research-based criteria.
Results showed the arm-injury incidence rate among youth players was 2.22 per 1,000 athlete exposures. Investigators noted both parents and players underestimated sport-specialization status based on the standard research definition. (31% self vs. 83% research based). There was a higher frequency of arm injuries in specialized players compared with non-specialized players; however, there was no difference between pitchers and position players.
“This study highlights the need for continued efforts to educate youth athletes and their parents about the recommendations for safe sport participation, as well as the risks associated with sport specialization,” Arnold said. “The National Athletic Trainers’ Association, in partnership with multiple governing bodies in youth sports, recommends the following to reduce young athletes’ risk for sport-related injury: 1) delay specialization in a single sport for as long as possible, 2) encourage young athletes to participate on one sports team at any given time, and 3) avoid participating in a single organized sport for more than 8 months out of the year. These recommendations are to ensure that young athletes, who are still growing and developing, get adequate amounts of rest, recovery and time away from sport. Safe sport participation should emphasize an athlete’s health and well-being in addition to their athletic success.” – by Monica Jaramillo
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.