The scientific foundations and associated injury risks of early soccer specialisation


Early specialisation is characterised by formal participation in a single sport at the exclusion of others. Limited data are available to support this approach in the development of soccer players who attain elite status later in life. Of growing concern is the associated increased risk of injury and suggestions that single sport specialisation is a risk factor independent of age, growth, biological maturation and training volumes. In the United Kingdom, elite soccer organisations have recently adopted an early sport specialisation approach following the introduction of the Elite Player Performance Plan. A key tenet of this programme is increased opportunities for training through a marked rise in the specified on-pitch hours per week. The accumulation of high training hours may be less of a relevant marker for success, and the impact of such a significant increase in training volume for young athletes who are experiencing a range of growth and maturational processes is currently unknown. This critical commentary includes an evidence-based discussion of the effectiveness of early sport specialisation and the potential injury risks associated with such programmes placing a specific focus on elite male youth soccer players. Available data indicate that modifications to the existing Elite Player Performance Plan framework could enhance players’ development and reduce injury risk. Proposed alterations include reduced volume of soccer-specific training at key stages of growth and maturation and guidelines for the provision of a greater variety of physical activities that are integrated within other programme components. 

Autor / Fonte:Paul J Read, Jon L Oliver, Mark B A De Ste Croix, Gregory D Myer, Rhodri S Lloyd Journal of Sports Sciences 2016 April 27, : 1-8