A Friends school, pre-K to 12, on 47 acres in East Falls, Philadelphia


Keeping Athletes Healthy

Keeping Athletes Healthy
on blue background reads: youth sport specialization safety recommendations

The landscape of youth sports participation has drastically changed over the past 20 years. Increasingly, young athletes focus on a single sport instead of being multi-sport athletes. Upwards of 30 percent of young athletes are specialized by age 14, according to a recent study out of the University of Wisconsin Injury in Sport Laboratory.

Youth sport specialization is defined as intensive, year-round participation in a single sport, often to the exclusion of other sports. Sport specialization often requires increased training hours, which may predispose young athletes to social isolation, poor academic performance, increased anxiety, greater stress, inadequate sleep, decreased family time and burnout. Seventy percent of young athletes will drop out of organized sport by age 13.

In October 2019, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) released information on youth sports specialization. The NATA, backed by the athletic trainers’ associations for the NCAA, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS put out the following recommendations:

  • Delay specializing in a single sport for as long as possible: Adolescent and young athletes should strive to participate and sample a variety of sports. This recommendation supports general physical fitness, athleticism and reduces injury risk in athletes.
  • One team at a time: Adolescent and young athletes should participate in one organized sport per season. Total volume of organized sport participation per season is an important risk factor for injury. 
  • Less than eight months per year: Adolescent and young athletes should not play a single sport more than eight months per year. 
  • No more hours/week than age in years: Adolescent and young athletes should not participate in organized sport and/or activity more hours per week than their age (i.e., a 12-year-old athlete should not participate in more than 12 hours per week of organized sport). 
  • Two days of rest per week: Adolescent and young athletes should have a minimum of two days off per week from organized training and competition. Athletes should not participate in other organized team sports, competitions and/or training on rest and recovery days. 
  • Rest and recovery time from organized sport participation: Adolescent and young athletes should spend time away from organized sport and/or activity at the end of each competitive season. This allows for both physical and mental recovery, promotes health and well-being and minimizes injury risk and burnout/dropout.

Penn Charter encourages student-athletes to try multiple sports while at PC. The school schedules games and practices so students weekly athletic activity is equal to or less than as many hours as their age in years. Because of scheduling, not all athletes can take two days of rest per week, but PC Athletics mandates that student-athletes have at least one day of rest per week. PC Athletics encourages students to limit their participation in out-of-school activities in-season to promote rest and reduce the likelihood of overuse injuries.

Jessica Rawlings and Jeremy Eith, PC’s athletic trainers, John Estok and Lori Swartz, PC’s strength and conditioning coaches, in addition to Director of Athletics and Athletic Planning John Thiel, are available to answer any questions or concerns you may have about these recommendations or the work of Penn Charter’s athletic trainers and strength and conditioning staff.

Sporadically throughout the rest of this school year, the PC athletic training staff will highlight how William Penn Charter School helps prevent injuries in student-athletes and will provide the resources for your child to have a healthy and successful playing career. Stay tuned on SportsZone and on twitter @WPCSports.


NOTE: MS Parent Forum (LS parents grades 3-5 also welcome)

Thursday, Jan. 23, 8:15-9:15 am, Balderston Commons (Note: Time is am, not pm)

"Youth Sports and Specialization: Positive Strategies for Parents to Help their Student-Athletes Find Joy and Avoid Burnout"

Join John Estok, strength and conditioning coach and Physical Education Department chair; Jess Rawlings and Jeremy Eith, athletic trainers; Brian Hecker, coordinator of MS athletics; and Wilson Felter, director of Middle School. Our team will introduce recent trends and provide useful tips, recommendations and statistics to help parents navigate the ever-changing youth sports landscape.

Icons of organizations that have endorsed NATA recommendations on youth sport specialization

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