Mayrena Hernandez is a 3rd year Kinesiology doctoral candidate in the Wisconsin Injury in Sport Lab (WISL), which is lead by Dr. David Bell. She has a background in athletic training and public health, having earned her AT degree at the University of Texas – Arlington, and MS in Public Health at Kansas State University. Mayrena is a first generation Mexican-American student who has first-hand experience of the impact of health care inequities in our country. Through personal and educational experiences, she decided that she wanted to come to UW-Madison to merge her love of both athletic training and public health with her passion for youth sport research. During her years as a doctoral candidate and beyond, Mayrena is determined to contribute to a slowly growing body of research needed to help obtain health equity in athletics, especially in youth sports.
The aim of her current research study is to understand low socioeconomic (SES) youth sport families and what opportunities are available to them to participate in sport and to sport specialize. Sport specialization is the process of training intensely in a single sport and excluding other sports. In a previous study, Mayrena analyzed how the perception of sport specialization differed between parents and children. Previous research shows that one factor that may lead to sport specialization is the perception that it will improve one’s chance of making their high school team and subsequently receiving an athletic college scholarship. However, she says that “sport specialization is a huge issue right now in youth sports because it has been shown to lead to overuse injuries and burnout from sport.” With her research, she aims to understand how a low SES population of youth sport families might decide to have their child sport specialize despite many medical organizations advising not to.
Mayrena says she was inspired to study low SES youth sport families because they are not well represented in sport specialization literature. Her hope is that by adding her findings with low SES families in regards to sport specialization, medical organizations and other health care providers may make appropriate recommendations for low SES youth in sports and decrease their risk of injury while participating in the sports they love.