Sport specialization classification and injury risk in female athletes


At the 2022 AAP National Conference & Exhibition, investigators looked at associations between sports specializations and injury in female teenage athletes.

A poster session at this year’s AAP National Conference session offered a look into how a female athlete’s sports specialization affects injury and stress fracture. The study researchers noted that literature regarding sports specialization often found links with injury risk and other negative effects for athletes, but descriptions of risks specific to adolescent female athletes were limited.

Retrospective data related to sports participation and injury were obtained from a pre-participation questionnaire for girl athletes in local high schools, with girls aged from 13 to 18 years. The 34-item questionnaire included questions on sports specialization, injury history, concussion history, and menstrual history. There was a 3-point specialization scale used to analyze differences in injury rates, body image issues, and menstrual dysfunctions between low, moderate, and highly specialized athletes.

Of the 229 athletes surveyed, 219 completed the 3-point specialization classification questions and were included in the study. Of this group, 41.6% were low specialization, 26.9% moderately specialized, an 31.5% highly specialized. High specialization athletes were more likely to have injury history and a history of concussions. Additionally, athletes categorized as specialized on the 6-point scale were more likely to quit the sport that caused a prior injury compared to multisport athletes.

The investigators concluded that the study confirms associations between higher specialization and stress fracture, concussion, and injury history. They believe that more studies are needed to determine sensitivity, specificity, and reliability of these scales. They also believed that the association between stress fracture and specialization would benefit from further research.

Okoruwa E, Abbott A, Stamm M, Mulcahey, MK. Sports specialization classification and injury risk in female athletes. 2022 AAP National Conference & Exhibition. Poster presentation. October 7-11, 2022. Anaheim, California.

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