EARLY SPECIALISATION COULD CAUSE STRESS
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