There has been growing concern about the rise of sports injuries for children who specialize in a single sport as opposed to those who play multiple sports.  The argument is that overuse or hyperfocus creates stressors that result in more injury exposure.

Schroeder et al. in the March 15, 2015 issue of The Journal of Pediatrics, conducted a study based on a 5-year period recorded in the high school Reporting Information Online Study.  The article entitled “Epidemiology of Overuse Injuries among High School Athletes in the United States” demonstrates quite strongly that overuse injuries are a far greater problem for girls who participate in sports than for boys.  The reason is that overuse injuries primarily take place only in certain sports.

From 2006/7 to 2012/13 academic years, 7.7% of all injuries were overuse injuries; but for girls it was 13.5% of all injuries whereas for boys it was only 5.5%.  The gender differences however are largely a product of the sports girls play.  Perhaps not surprisingly, swimming is the sport with the greatest percentage of overuse injury to all injuries, 55.7% for boys and 47.7% for girls. Track and field were next with 28.5% for boys and 36.8% for girls.  Boys’ football was by far the sport with the greatest number of injuries (it is also by two-fold the most participatory), but only 3.2% of all injuries were caused by overuse.  The lowest percentage of overuse injuries occurred in boys’ ice hockey (1.4%) and boys’ volleyball (2.4%).  When all 20 sports were evaluated, the rates of overuse injuries were greater among girls (1.88) compared with boys (1.26).  Both girls and boys were more likely to sustain an overuse injury in practice than in competition.

In another study of 5-17 year olds by Stracciolini et al. (2014) in The American Journal of Sports Medicine, girls had a higher percentage of overuse injuries (62.5%) compared with traumatic injuries (37.5%); whereas the opposite was seen in boys (41.9% to 58.2%).  Looking at specific areas of injury, girls sustained more injuries to the lower extremity (65.8%) and spine (11.3%) as compared with boys (53.7% and 8.2%, respectively). Boy patients had a greater percentage of injuries to the upper extremity (29.8%) as compared with girl patients (15.1%). The type of hip/pelvis injuries differed greatly by gender, with girls sustaining more overuse (90.9%) and soft tissue injuries (75.3%) versus males, who suffered injuries that tended to be traumatic (58.3%) and bony (55.6%) in nature. The reason: males were more likely than females to participate in team and contact/collision sports.