Harmful Effects of Early Sport Specialization

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the harmful effects of early sport specialization, and how focusing on one sport from a young age does not guarantee future athletic success.

Here are some of the concerns you should be aware of before allowing your child to commit to specialized sports training:

  • It is widely accepted that children who spend all their time doing one sport may not only compromise the development process, but may also eventually develop sport-related injuries.
  • Overloading parts of the body, without developing the surrounding areas, can lead to interruptions of the growth process, as well as long term problems with the skeletal system and joints which are often irreversible.
  • In case of some of the abilities, such as maximum strength training, over engagement before puberty will not bring significant results but can be very dangerous for the health and future growth of young athlete.

Timely multilateral development of athletic abilities is essential for laying the groundwork for future success. Optimum balance, brought about by introducing age appropriate skills and activities throughout the athlete’s youth can bring positive changes in the body including accelerated growth, correct posture, good muscular development, and an overall well-developed body which is stronger, less prone to injury and able to carry the loads in training in later stages needed to become a champion.

Multilateral development in sport does not mean random cross training of multiple sports throughout the development of the athlete. In the case of young athletes, it means developing motoric skills and physiological abilities in the proper sequential order relative to age as well as to the proper periodization of each stage of development. (See table on training progression.)

Once a development period passes, the gains that can be made in particular abilities are significantly diminished. It is important to incorporate the proper sequence of development within each facet of  training and not rush through the developmental process or take short cuts in order to gain short term, temporary progress.

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