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Saturday, May 18, 2024
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UW-Madison study shows injury effects of high school athletics

UW-Madison researchers released a groundbreaking observational study which found that highly specialized athletes were more likely to report a history of overuse knee injuries, according to a university release.

David Bell, one of the authors of the study and an assistant professor with the Department of Kinesiology's Athletic Training Program, cited the need for research in this area.

"Physicians are way ahead of the research in this area and, anecdotally, they report that they are seeing more kids in their clinics that have injuries that used to be only found in older athletes,” Bell said in the release.

The researchers defined “specialized” as year-round intensive training in a single sport at the exclusion of other sports.

The study included 302 high school athletes between the ages of 13 and 18 at one small and one large school to complete two surveys, one asking about sports specialization and the other about injury history.

Overall, 34.8 percent of athletes were classified as low specialization, 28.8 percent as moderate specialization and 36.4 percent as high specialization. The study found athletes from the smaller school were more likely to be classified in the low specialization group than those from the larger school.

The study also showed highly specialized athletes were more likely to report a history of overuse knee injuries, compared with moderate or low specialization athletes. Athletes who trained in one sport for more than eight months out of the year—one of the three specific indicating factors of high specialization—were more likely to report a history of knee injuries, overuse knee injuries and hip injuries.

Bell says the study provides key takeaways for parents of athletes.

"Make sure your children are getting breaks in competition," Bell said in the release.

Bell emphasized the study was not meant to advise against high school athletics, but to improve its safety.

“There are so many great aspects to sports participation and we don’t want this information to scare athletes or parents—we just want them to be wise consumers and to participate as safely as possible,” Bell said.

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