Pediatric Health Care Provider Awareness, Perceptions, and Utility of Sport Specialization Recommendations

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Journal of Athletic Training


Context: Sport specialization, or focused participation in a single sport, is associated with an increased rate of overuse injury and burnout. Medical associations and sport organizations have published recommendations for sport specialization aimed at reducing its negative consequences. Health care providers (HCPs) are often identified as individuals who can educate athletes and parents about these important recommendations. Objective: To compare knowledge, perceptions, awareness, confidence in knowledge, and use of sport specialization recommendations among HCPs who work with pediatric athletes. Design: Cross-sectional study. Setting: An online web-based survey was developed to assess HCPs’ knowledge, perceptions, awareness, confidence in knowledge, and clinical use of sport specialization recommendations. Patients or Other Participants: Participants were recruited from the research survey services of 4 professional organizations. Main Outcome Measure(s): Dependent variables were responses for awareness, perceptions, confidence in knowledge, use, and barriers sections of the survey. Data were analyzed with descriptive statistics; comparisons among HCPs were made through v2 and Kruskal-Wallis tests. Results: The survey was completed by 770 HCPs (completion rate ¼ 95.1%). Respondents lacked awareness specific to recommendations surrounding the maximum number of sport participation months per year (39.5%), maximum hours per week (40.7%), and maximum number of teams on which youth athletes should participate concurrently (43.9%). Physicians were the most aware of medical organization recommendations generally (48%–68.8%) and confident in their knowledge (41.5%–75.1%). All HCPs were less aware and confident in their knowledge of sport organization recommendations, with no differences among HCPs. Physicians did not perceive many barriers to the use of the recommendations, whereas athletic trainers felt that patient (39.9%) and parent (45.3%) behaviors were the greatest barriers to usage. Conclusions: Awareness, perceptions, and use of sport specialization recommendations varied by discipline, but most respondents believed they were associated with a decreased risk of injury. Future researchers should focus on improved education and implementation of recommendations across all roles.

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