Masters Theses/Capstone Projects

Date of Award

Spring 4-30-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Allied Health (MS)

First Committee Member

Dr. Paul Longenecker


Dr. Kim Fischer


Sport specialization, Overuse injury, Burnout, Collegiate, Division III, Athletics

Subject Categories

Higher Education | Medicine and Health Sciences


There are an increasing number of opportunities for today’s youth to participate in year-round sport organizations that promote early sport specialization before the age of fifteen. Early sport specialization is linked to a higher rate of overuse injury of frequently used muscle groups. The physical, mental, and psychological demands of early sport specialization increase likelihood of burnout and cessation of sport participation. Early sport generalization allows physiological and psychological rest and recovery in youth athletes that lead to decreased injury rates and less burnout with more individuals continuing to participate in competitive sports throughout the collegiate years. The purpose of this research was to determine what effect, if any, early sport specialization in youth has on rate of overuse injury and burnout in NCAA Division III athletes at a small, private University. A 12-question, retrospective, written survey classified each participant as an early sport specialist or early sport generalist and gathered information on frequency of overuse injury and development of burnout during the high school and college competitive sport years. Statistical analysis indicated early sport generalists were more likely to participate in competitive collegiate athletics at the NCAA Division III Institution analyzed in this study (71.8%). Early sport specialists were more likely to experience burnout (P = 0.088) and may be more likely to develop overuse injury during the high school years (P = 0.254) but not the college years (P=0.385). It is unknown if early sport specialists are more likely to develop a greater number of overuse injuries throughout their competitive sport career than early sport generalists. Young athletes are encouraged to participate in multiple competitive sports but the results of this research were not statistically significant and further research needs to be done to support these conclusions.



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