University of Wisconsin–Madison

Time magazine cover story notes UW-Madison research on injury risks associated with sports specialization

August 31, 2017

The cover story for the Sept. 4, 2017, print edition of Time magazine is headlined, “How Kids’ Sports Became a $15 Billion Industry.”

The article explains: “Across the nation, kids of all skill levels, in virtually every team sport, are getting swept up by a youth-sports economy that increasingly resembles the pros at increasingly early ages. Neighborhood Little Leagues, town soccer associations and church basketball squads that bonded kids in a community–and didn’t cost as much as a rent check–have largely lost their luster. Little League participation, for example, is down 20% from its turn-of-the-century peak. These local leagues have been nudged aside by private club teams, a loosely governed constellation that includes everything from development academies affiliated with professional sports franchises to regional squads run by moonlighting coaches with little experience. The most competitive teams vie for talent and travel to national tournaments. Others are elite in name only, siphoning expensive participation fees from parents of kids with little hope of making the high school varsity, let alone the pros.”

Time Magazine cover Sept. 4Not only is the financial cost to parents high, but there are also potential health concerns, Time explains.

The magazine notes: “There are mounting concerns … over the consequences of such intensity, particularly at young ages. The average number of sports played by children ages 6 to 17 has dipped for three straight years, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. In a study published in the May issue of American Journal of Sports Medicine, University of Wisconsin researchers found that young athletes who participated in their primary sport for more than eight months in a year were more likely to report overuse injuries.”

Timothy McGuine, who earned his master’s degree from the Department of Kinesiology in 1986 and today is a senior scientist and the research coordinator for the UW Health Sports Medicine Center, is the lead author on that paper referenced by Time that was published in the Journal of Sports Medicine. The study is titled, “A Prospective Study on the Effect of Sport Specialization on Lower Extremity Injury Rates in High School Athletes.”

Co-authors include: Eric Post and Stephanie Trigsted, Ph.D. students with the Department of Kinesiology; Scott Hetzel, with the Department of Biostatistics and Medical Informatics;, Alison Brooks, an assistant professor of Orthopedics, Division of Sports Medicine, at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health; and David Bell, an assistant professor with the Department of Kinesiology’s Athletic Training Program and the director of the Wisconsin Injury in Sport Laboratory (WISL).