The Adolescent Athlete: A Developmental Approach to Injury Risk

in Pediatric Exercise Science
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With the advent of long-term athlete development programs and early sport specialization, the training of elite athletes now spans the period of adolescence. Adolescence represents a period of physical, psychosocial and cognitive development, but also a time of physical and psychological vulnerability. Changes in skeletal and physiological attributes coincide with an increased risk of sport related injury. A window of vulnerability is shaped by the properties of the musculoskeletal system, the influence of pubertal hormones and the lag time between physical and cognitive development. This article aims to challenge the assumption of adolescence as a time of increased vigor alone, by highlighting the presence of specific vulnerabilities, and proposing that the hormonal, musculoskeletal, and neurocognitive changes of adolescence may represent intrinsic risk factors for sport related injury.

McKay is with the Children’s Hospital Institute of Sports Medicine, and Academic Dept. of Adolescent Medicine, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network and Discipline of Child and Adolescent Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia. Broderick is with the Children’s Hospital Institute of Sports Medicine, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network and School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Steinbeck is with the Academic Dept. of Adolescent Medicine, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network and Network and Discipline of Child and Adolescent Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

Address author correspondence to Damien McKay at damien.mckay@health.nsw.gov.au.