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Training the specialised youth athlete: a supportive classification model to keep them playing
  1. Neeru Jayanthi1,
  2. Heather Saffel2,
  3. Tim Gabbett3,4
  1. 1 Orthopaedics and Family Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  2. 2 Emory Sports Medicine Center, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  3. 3 Gabbett Performance Solutions, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  4. 4 Institute for Resilient Regions, University of Southern Queensland, Ipswich, Queensland, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Neeru Jayanthi, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, USA; neerujayanthi{at}

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Sport specialisation, the year-round training in a single sport at the exclusion of other sports, is seen in approximately 30% of youth athletes.1 To reduce the risk of overuse injury and burnout, numerous organisations have recommended against such sport specialisation, particularly prior to adolescence.2 While some studies have suggested that sport specialisation is an independent risk factor for overuse injury,1 3 others consider training volume to be the underlying problem.4 However, single-sport training is a successful path for some and ‘it is possible to have positive experiences as a specialised athlete’.5

Many athletes continue to specialise, an accumulation of sport-specific practice hours is likely necessary to achieve elite level status,6 rather than just recommending multisport play. While sport specialisation and intense training may be discouraged in most youth athletes, there is still a need for a supportive model that (1) encourages training loads for the uninjured, specialised youth athlete and (2) adjusts training load progressions based on their individual load tolerance.

Training load: floor to ceiling

Recently, three simple concepts, of the ‘floor’, ‘ceiling’ and time have been described to safely progress athletes to peak performance.6 The floor represents …

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  • Twitter @neerujayanthi, @TimGabbett

  • Contributors All authors made substantial contributions to the conception and writing of this editorial, approved the final version of the manuscript and are accountable for all aspects of the work.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Disclaimer It is an original manuscript and no part has been published before or is in consideration for publication in another journal.

  • Competing interests TG works as a consultant to several high-performance organizations, including sporting teams, industry, military and higher education institutions. He serves in a voluntary capacity as a senior associate editor of BJSM. NJ is an advisor to Pickup Sports, Inc. and is the director of Pickup Sports Foundation.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.