Prevalence and Consequences of Sport Specialization Among Little League Baseball Players

Eric G. Post, Michael D. Rosenthal, Andrew T. Pennock, Mitchell J. Rauh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Baseball is one of the most popular boy’s youth sports, and there has been a rise in the rates of certain overuse injuries among players. Specialization has been identified as a risk factor for overuse injury in high school athlete populations, but there is little understanding of the prevalence or consequences of sport specialization in Little League baseball players. Hypothesis: Sport specialization will be highly prevalent among Little League baseball players and specialization will be associated with worse throwing arm health. Study Design: Cross-sectional study. Level of Evidence: Level 3. Methods: A total of 246 Little League baseball players (male; N = 241; age, 9.5 ± 1.6 years) between 7 and 12 years old completed an anonymous, online questionnaire with their parent’s assistance. The questionnaire consisted of participant demographics and baseball participation information, including sport specialization status and the Youth Throwing Score (YTS), a valid and reliable patient-reported outcome measure for youth baseball players. Results: Only 29 (11.8%) players met the criteria for high specialization. Approximately one-third of all players (n = 77; 31.3%) reported participating in baseball year-round or receiving private coaching outside of their league (n = 81; 32.9%). Highly specialized athletes demonstrated worse scores on the YTS on average compared with low-specialization athletes (mean [SE]: 56.9 [1.6] vs 61.1 [1.2]; P = 0.01). Similarly, pitching in the previous year (P < 0.01) or traveling overnight regularly for showcases (P = 0.01) were associated with a worse score on the YTS. Conclusion: While the prevalence of high sport specialization was low among Little League baseball players, other behaviors associated with specialization such as year-round play and the receiving of private coaching were more common. Highly specialized Little League players demonstrated worse throwing arm health compared with low-specialization players. Clinical Relevance: Little League players and their parents may represent a potential target audience for dissemination campaigns regarding sport specialization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-229
Number of pages7
JournalSports Health
Volume13
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • overhead athlete
  • overuse injury
  • pitching
  • training volume

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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