Children's Hospital Colorado

Little League; Big Business –– The Impact of Sport Specialization on Young Athletes (S5:E22)

Once upon a time, American youth played pick-up games in the street and tried out for their first organized school sports teams as they entered middle and high school. And occasionally, a local hometown hero went on to play at the collegiate level and even more rare; someone made it to the pros. Fueled by families paying big money for private club teams, today’s youth sports have gone pro. According to TIME Magazine, kids’ sports make up a more than $15 billion industry. Children as young as five attend tryouts, are ranked in their discipline and are shuttled around the country to play with the best.

Listen to pediatric experts discuss the health impacts of sport specialization.

In this episode, Greg Walker, MD, joins us for a discussion about the health impacts of sport specialization –– intense, year-round training in single sport –– on young athletes, including overuse injuries, burnout, injury prevention and training during peak performance.

Dr. Walker is part of our Sports Medicine and Orthopedics Institute teams, and he is assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

In this episode, our experts discuss:

  • The definition of sport specialization in its relation to health outcomes
  • The risks of common athletic injuries due to overuse and overtraining
  • Recognizing the differences in recommendations for maximal benefit of training during peak performance
  • The advantages of waiting to specialize in a particular sport
  • What we know about burnout in sport specialization
  • Approaching the topic of sport specialization from the lens of achieving optimum performance
  • Common sports injuries and the key components of sports injury prevention, including strength training and muscle activation

Sports medicine at Children’s Colorado

At the Sports Medicine Center, our pediatric sports medicine experts, including doctors, athletic trainers, physical therapists, dietitians and other specialists, lead the region in state-of-the-art treatment for young athletes.

Refer a patient to Children’s Colorado.