Youth Baseball & Sports Specialization: Too Early?

Catherine Logan

August 27th, 2019

Early Sports Specialization Is Associated With Upper Extremity Injuries in Throwers and Fewer Games Played in Major League Baseball
Source: OJSM, first published July 26, 2019

Clinical Question: Is there a greater predisposition to overuse injury, burnout and decreased career longevity when compared to multi-sport athletes in Major League Baseball (MLB) athletes?

Bottom Line: Multi-sport athletes played in significantly more mean total games (362.8 vs 300.8; P < .01) as well as more mean MLB games (95.9 vs 71.6; P = .04) than single-sport athletes. Single-sport athletes had a significantly higher prevalence of upper extremity injuries compared with multi-sport athletes (136 [36%] vs 55 [50%]; P = .009). Single-sport pitchers also had a higher prevalence of shoulder and elbow injuries (86 vs 27; P = .008) and were more likely to have recurrent elbow injuries (33% vs 17% recurrence; P = .002) compared with multi-sport pitchers.

Points to consider: 746 athletes were included in this study: 240 multi-sport and 506 single-sport. Athletes who participated in 1 or more sports in addition to baseball during high school were considered multi-sport, and athletes who participated in only baseball were considered single-sport athletes.

Takeaway: Compelling stuff. Professional MLB players who participated in multiple sports in high school played in MORE major league games and experienced LOWER rates of injuries.

About the Author:
Catherine A. Logan, MD, MBA, MSPT is a sports medicine Orthopaedic Surgeon and writer. Based in Denver, CO, she is an attending at Colorado Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics at Rose Medical Center. Dr. Logan is the Head League Physician for Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) member of the team physician pool for the US Ski & Snowboard teams each year. Dr. Logan completed her Orthopaedic Surgery residency at the Harvard Combined Orthopaedic Residency Program and her Sports Medicine Fellowship training at the prestigious Steadman Philippon Research Institute/The Steadman Clinic in Vail, CO. Logan is also on the board of The Chill Foundation.