At what age should someone specialize in a given sport? This question is a hot topic today; from parent to researcher, everyone has an opinion. So who is right? Unfortunately, there isn’t a universal answer.
Past research suggests that 10,000 hours are needed to be elite at a skill, while current research states that this is inaccurate. Some individuals might need 2,000 hours, while some may devote 15,000 hours and never reach an elite level.
The current tide of opinion is shifting to promoting multiple sports before the age of 15, not just for injury prevention but also for overall performance. In order to make the best decision, there are some things that should be considered:
Rest is necessary. Overuse injuries are becoming an epidemic, especially in young athletes. When injuries occur muscles do not work well, which means less strength for the athlete. There should be a break to let the body recover from a specific sport. This does not have to be complete rest, but rather a different sport or cross training. The dangers from playing one sport year-round are due to the overloading of specific muscles. If one switches from soccer to baseball, they will be using a whole different group of muscles.
Assessment by a trained professional can help performance and keep us healthy. Some of us could be more susceptible to injury than others; for example, baseball pitchers who have shoulder weakness or soccer players with hip weakness. Anyone who has participated in youth female soccer knows someone who has suffered the dreaded ACL tear. However, studies have shown the application of training programs referred to as PEP (Prevent injury and Enhance Performance) can reduce the risk by as much as 75-80%.
We all think that in order to be elite, we have to be specific. There are many elite athletes who were not sport specific until they reached high school or even college. This list includes: Tom Brady, Kobe Bryant, Roger Federer, and Lebron James. The experts are still unsure about how to make it to the top, but playing through injury and pain is certainly not the way.
Written by: Travis Moore, DPT.
Sports + Orthopedic Leaders has PT clinics located in Oakland, Walnut Creek (SOL PT) & Santa Cruz (SOL Santa Cruz), CA as well as a performance training center on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland (SOL Performance Training). SOL is the #1 choice for physical therapy and sports performance training within the East Bay and the San Francisco Bay Area. Serving the communities of Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley, San Francisco, Santa Cruz and beyond, SOL Physical Therapy’s award winning clinical team has helped thousands of people reach their physical goals. Services provided include: Sports + Orthopedic Rehabilitation, Active Release Techniques®, Manual Therapy Techniques and Massage, Group TRX Suspension Training Classes, Pilates & Personal and Peak Performance Training.