Objective: To determine the relationship between sport specialization and previous injury in elite male youth soccer players.Design:Retrospective survey. Setting: U.S. Soccer Development Academy. Participants: Male youth soccer players (N = 2123).Assessment of Risk Factors:Sport specialization, weekly training volume, training ratio, and age.Main Outcome Measures:Previous sports-related injury, injury type (traumatic vs overuse), injury severity, and injury location. Results: Of 2099 participants (average age 13.2 ± 1.8 years), 61.7% were specialized in soccer (played soccer >8 mo/yr and no other sports) and 38.3% were nonspecialized (played soccer >8 mo/yr and also played other organized sports). Specialized athletes were older than nonspecialized athletes (13.7 ± 1.9 vs 12.5 ± 1.4, P < 0.0001). Thirty-three percent (690/2099) of athletes reported at least one previous sports-related injury for a total of 765 traumatic injuries and 25 overuse injuries. Distribution of injury type was similar for specialized and nonspecialized athletes. Among athletes with overuse injuries, nonspecialized athletes were more likely to report upper-extremity and trunk overuse injuries than specialized athletes. After accounting for age and weekly training volume, specialized athletes had decreased odds of reporting any previous injury compared with nonspecialized athletes [odds ratio (OR), 0.78; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.64-0.95], and similar odds of reporting a previous lower-extremity (LE) overuse injury as nonspecialized athletes (OR, 0.70; 95% CI, 0.56-1.1). However, specialized athletes missed more practices due to injury than nonspecialized players [median = 3, interquartile range (IQR) 2-4 vs median = 2, IQR 2-4, P = 0.0003]. Conclusions: In this national sample of elite, male youth soccer players, after accounting for age and weekly training volume, specialized athletes had decreased odds of reporting any previous injury and similar odds of reporting a previous LE overuse injury as nonspecialized athletes. These data suggest the need for further research to determine whether injury risk related to sports specialization depends on sex, chosen sport, and skill/competitive level.
- sports specialization
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
- Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation