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. [Epub 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 specialization.
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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