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Caring for the Young Athlete: Past, Present and Future

What’s so ‘special’ about kids playing sports? A previous longitudinal cohort study of 453 elite young British athletes outlined the positive benefits of sport, while identifying a knowledge gap of when coaches, parents and athletes should initiate intensive training or specialisation in a single sport. 1 Recently, multiple organisations have published general recommendations on youth sports training and sports specialisation, recommending against early single-sport specialisation until middle to late adolescence. 2-4 However, these guidelines have not been sport-specific with regard to age and volume of training. On the basis of emerging data regarding short-term injury risk and psychological burnout, the greatest risk of intensive training and early sports specialisation actually may be the marginalisation of children who become disengaged from physical activity altogether. 2-6 An estimated 70% of children may drop out of organised sport by 13 years of age, particularly young girls. 7 DiFiori et al explore an innovative model from the NBA on youth player development providing age-specific training guidelines (see page 142 ).