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A Doctor's Perspective On Early Sport Specialization

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Dr. Joseph Donahue is an orthopedic surgeon at SOAR Clinic in Redwood City and has served as team physician for the San Francisco 49ers and Stanford University as well as an orthopedic consultant for the San Francisco Giants. He is the team physician for Santa Clara University.

Here, Dr. Donahue says that data show the disadvantages of early sport specialization, in terms of overuse injury, burnout and the possibility that the sport of focus is not the one for which the youth athlete is best equipped or most inclined. Instead, he recommends one sport per season and one team per season, which allows for cross-training the body, and he calls for times of rest. He notes that economic interests in youth sports naturally pressure players and their families toward commitment to one sport, but that greater athletic success comes from diversifying athletically.