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A Safe Approach to Youth Sports Specialization

2017 national athletic training month1. Delay specializing as long as possible!

Sport specialization is often described as participating and/or training for a single sport year-round. Adolescent* and young athletes should strive to participate, or sample, a variety of sports. This recommendation supports general physical fitness, athleticism and reduces injury risk in athletes.

2. One team at a time:

Adolescent and young athletes should participate in one organized sport per season. Many adolescent and young athletes participate or train year-round in a single sport, while simultaneously competing in other organized sports. Total volume of organized sport participation per season is an important risk factor for injury.

3. Less than eight months per year:

Adolescent and young athletes should not play a single sport more than eight months per year.

4. No more hours/week than age in years:

Adolescent and young athletes should not participate in organized sport and/or activity more hours per week than their age (i.e., a 12-year-old athlete should not participate in more than 12 hours per week of organized sport).

5. Two days of rest per week:

Adolescent and young athletes should have a minimum of two days off per week from organized training and competition. Athletes should not participate in other organized team sports, competitions and/or training on rest and recovery days.

6. Rest and recovery time from organized sport participation:

Adolescent and young athletes should spend time away from organized sport and/or activity at the end of each competitive season. This allows for both physical and mental recovery, promotes health and well-being and minimizes injury risk and burnout/dropout.

Q: When should my child start focusing their time and energy on only one sport?

A: Single sport specialization should be delayed as long as possible – this supports overall
general fitness, athleticism, and reduces injury risk.

Q: Once we decide to specialize in one sport, what sort of recommendations should we
follow in order to reduce the risk of injury?

A: Stick to the sport of choice and refrain from adding other time-consuming activities along

Q: What sort of rest and recovery is needed?

A: Young athletes should have a minimum of 2 days rest per week as well as scheduled time off following each competitive season. This allows for mental and physical recovery including promotion of general health and well-being. This time is valuable for these reasons and its influence on minimizing injury risk and burnout.

March is National Athletic Training Month (NATM), and because this year’s NATM theme is ATs Impact Health Care Through Action, Athletico’s athletic trainers have developed a safe approach to youth sports to educate athletes, coaches and parents on ways to avoid injury.

More about Athletic Training Outreach Services

For more information, visit NATA’s official statement at

 **The World Health Organization (WHO) defines an adolescent as any person between the ages of 10 and 19.

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