Parents’ Awareness and Perceptions of Sport
Specialization and Injury Prevention Recommendations

Bell DR,
Post EG, Trigstead SM, Schaefer DA, McGuine TA, Brooks MA. Clin J Sport Med. 2018.

ahead of print]

Take Home Message: Many parents are unfamiliar with sport volume
recommendations. However, over half of parents feel that sport specialization
is a problem.

Parents play a major role in their child’s
sport experiences. Therefore, parents need to be knowledgeable about recommendations
that aim to improve child/athlete safety (e.g., children should participate in
no more than 8 months out of the year, participate in organized sport for no
more hours per week than their age, and should not be participating in multiple
leagues simultaneously). Though, this information is available in the
literature and media, no one has evaluated whether parents know about these
recommendations. Therefore, the author’s surveyed 1,000 parents with a child
between 10-18 years of age who participated in sport within the past 12 months
to determine their knowledge of sport participation recommendations and examine
their perceptions toward sports specialization. The authors recruited parents
from Wisconsin-based tournaments, contests, and games (614 women; ~45 years of
age; average child’s age ~13 years old). The expert-approved survey asked about
the background of parent and child as well as the perceptions and knowledge of
safe-sport recommendations. The authors found that over 80% of parents had no
knowledge of sport volume recommendations regarding months per year or hours
per week of organized sport participation. Nearly 90% of the parents responded
that they were unaware of sport volume recommendations regarding multiple/simultaneous
leagues participation. Almost 1 in 4 parents responded that it was appropriate
for a child/athlete to participate in multiple leagues in the same sport, and ~60%
responded it was okay for the child/athlete to participate in multiple leagues
in different sports. Approximately 35% of the parents reported they were either
very or extremely concerned about the risk of injury, and 55% believe sport
specialization is a problem.

This is an interesting study because it
highlights that many parents lack knowledge regarding the sport volume
recommendations. These recommendations are in place to help prevent injury in
the pediatric population. Despite the low levels of awareness, the majority of
the parents agreed that having a child participate in multiple leagues for the same
sport was inappropriate. Still, 60% thought that participating in multiple
leagues in different sports was appropriate. It should be noted that it is
plausible that participating in multiple leagues could result in violating the
number of hours per week or monthly sport participating recommendations, which
could increase risk of injury. It was interesting to note that only 35% of the
parents were worried about their child becoming injured, but 55% believe sport
specialization is a problem. Therefore, there is not only a problem in sport
volume participation knowledge, but also about the risk of injury that is
associated with sport specialization. Medical professionals need to find more
impactful strategies to educate parents about sports specialization, sport
volume recommendations, and the risk of injury as it relates to sport

Questions for Discussion: Do you discuss sport volume recommendations
with your athlete’s parents? How can we disseminate information about sport
volume participation and sports specialization to the general public better?

Written by: Jane McDevitt
Reviewed by: Jeffrey Driban

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