Athletics Weekly - - Performance -

SPECIALISING in one sport too early is as­so­ci­ated with sig­nif­i­cantly worse mood, stress, fa­tigue, sore­ness, and sleep qual­ity among fe­male sports peo­ple, even af­ter con­trol­ling fac­tors such as age and hours spent train­ing.

Those were the find­ings of a study en­ti­tled “Sport Spe­cial­iza­tion Is As­so­ci­ated with Im­paired Sleep and Well-Be­ing in Fe­male Ado­les­cent Ath­letes” that was pre­sented to the Amer­i­can Acad­emy of Pe­di­atrics 2017 Na­tional Con­fer­ence & Ex­hi­bi­tion last week.

For the pa­per, Dr Drew Wat­son, the lead au­thor who is an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor in the di­vi­sion of sports medicine at the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin School of Medicine and Public Health and a team doc­tor for the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin ath­let­ics team, re­cruited 49 sports women aged be­tween 13 and 18. Over four months of a com­pet­i­tive sea­son, re­searchers car­ried out eval­u­a­tions of their daily train­ing load us­ing per­ceived ex­er­tion and other mea­sures in­clud­ing sleep pat­terns. Results showed no dif­fer­ences be­tween the 19 spe­cialised and 30 non-spe­cialised ath­letes with re­spect to age, years of ex­pe­ri­ence, or in-sea­son train­ing load. How­ever, de­spite get­ting roughly the same amount of sleep – with both groups get­ting just over eight hours a night – the ath­letes who did more than one sport were found to report bet­ter sleep qual­ity, mood, stress lev­els, fa­tigue and sore­ness than those who spe­cialised in a sin­gle sport.

In the long term, said Wat­son, early specialisation could pre-empt drop out from sport. “This study doesn’t an­swer whether sport specialisation it­self in­ter­feres with a youth ath­lete’s sleep and well­be­ing,” Wat­son said, “But it does sug­gest there are dif­fer­ences be­tween sin­gle and multi-sport youth ath­letes that could af­fect in­jury risk, per­for­mance, or life­long ath­letic par­tic­i­pa­tion.”

Too much, too young: young ath­letes should do a di­verse range of sports

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