Sport Specialization’s Association With an Increased Risk of Developing Anterior Knee Pain in Adolescent Female Athletes

in Journal of Sport Rehabilitation
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Objectives:

To determine if sport specialization increases the risk of anterior knee pain in adolescent female athletes.

Design:

Retrospective cohort epidemiology study.

Methods:

Female basketball, soccer, and volleyball players (N = 546) were recruited from a single county public school district in Kentucky consisting of 5 middle schools and 4 high schools. A total of 357 multisport and 189 single-sport (66 basketball, 57 soccer, and 66 volleyball) athlete subjects were included due to their diagnosis of patellofemoral pain (PFP) on physical exam. Testing consisted of a standardized history and physician-administered physical examination to determine the presence of PFP. This study compared self-reported multisport athletes with sport-specialized athletes participating in only 1 sport. The sports-participation data were normalized by sport season, with each sport accounting for 1 season of exposure. Incidence rate ratios and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated and used to determine significant differences between athletes who specialized in sport in early youth and multisport athletes.

Results:

Specialization in a single sport increased the relative risk of PFP incidence 1.5-fold (95% CI 1.0−2.2, P = .038) for cumulative PFP diagnoses. Specific diagnoses such as Sinding Larsen Johansson/patellar tendinopathy (95% CI 1.5−10.1, P = .005) and Osgood Schlatter disease (95% CI 1.5−10.1, P = .005) demonstrated a 4-fold greater relative risk in single-sport compared with multisport athletes. Incidence of other specific PFP diagnoses such as fat pad, plica, trauma, pes anserine bursitis, and iliotibial-band tendonitis was not different between single-sport and multisport participants (P > .05).

Conclusion:

Early sport specialization in female adolescents is associated with increased risk of anterior knee-pain disorders including PFP, Osgood Schlatter, Sinding Larsen-Johansson compared with multisport athletes.

Hall is with the Dept of Pediatric Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Phoenix, AZ. Foss and Myer are with the Div of Sports Medicine, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH. Hewett is with the OSU Sports Medicine Sports Health & Performance Inst, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH. Address author correspondence to Gregory Myer at greg.myer@cchmc.org.