Sport specialization, defined as intense training in one sport at the exclusion of other sports, has become increasingly more common among younger athletes, including those who play lacrosse.

But is it the right decision?  Does intense training and specialization heighten the risk of injury, or increase the chances of sport burnout?

Two national experts recently offered US Lacrosse their thoughts on the subject.

“A systematic progression for kids is crucial so they can be successful and be safe as they move through their training,” said Gregory Myer, PhD, of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Myer notes that data shows injury risk rates are highest for kids that began to specialize at early ages, primarily before reaching puberty. Helping younger athletes to develop a diverse skill set at earlier ages can help reduce the injury risk.

“Building a diverse motor skills profile is important. We want to hit them early so that they can carry those skills the rest of their life,” Myer said.

Dr. Neeru Jayanthi of the Emory University School of Medicine has a simple suggestion for coaches to help prevent overuse injuries in young athletes.

“If you can train less hours per week than your age, you are less likely to get serious overuse injuries,” he said. “As an example, a 14-year-old would do less than 14 hours per week.”

Jayanthi also notes the importance of including free play as a supplement to organized activities to help younger athletes maintain an adequate balance. The key idea is to engage in physical activities that are not lacrosse.

“The ratio should be 2-to 1, so if you do 10 hours per week of lacrosse, we want you to do five hours per week, or more, of free play where you’re doing things just for fun,” he said.

See the full comments by Myer and Jayanthi in a new video produced as part of the US Lacrosse | MedStar Sports Medicine Health & Performance Series.

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The Center for Sport Science at US Lacrosse seeks to expand, broaden and elevate the safety initiatives that the national governing body has been committed to since its creation in 1998.

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