Sport Specialisation in Young Athletes

The Australasian College of Sport & Exercise Physicians has released a position statement on sport specialisation in young athletes that has many useful guiding principles for adolescent Rowers, their families and Coaches.

Key points from this document for the developing rower and their supporters include:

  • With the exception of rhythmic gymnastics, there is no evidence that early specialisation is beneficial in achieving elite status in sports where peak performance is attained in adulthood [which it is in Rowing]

  • There is evidence that young athletes with overuse injuries are more likely to be highly specialised than uninjured athletes & this risk is independent of age, sex, and total hours of organised sport [overuse are the predominant injuries in rowers]

  • Resistance training among these at-risk populations has been shown to reduce injury risk by up to 68% and improve sport performance and health measures [see GRowingBODIES blog post #8 on if developing rowers should do weights?

  • There is an association between early sport specialisation and a number of more general harms, including lower overall perception of health, early burnout, less fun and reduced mental well-being

The ACSEP therefore recommends:

  • Athletes less than 12 should be encouraged to undertake wide variety of sports and include unstructured play as a form of physical activity
  • Total sport participation hours should not exceed the age of the athlete in years
  • Time spent in organised sport should not exceed a ratio of 2:1 to free play
  • Coaches and parents should ensure that any adolescent program adheres to evidence based sports specific guidelines

The complete document can be found at: screen shot 2019-01-28 at 7.54.53 am

Click to access Early%20Specialisation%20Position%20Statement.pdf


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