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There has been a rapid and substantial increase in scholarly and public discourse regarding the perceived consequences of single sport specialisation during periods of early development. Since 2017, there have been three systematic reviews and 10 narrative reviews/editorials about the negative implications of specialisation in sport. A 2009 review in this area asked ‘what do we know about early sport specialisation’ and concluded ‘not much’.1 In this editorial, we argue things have not changed much in the intervening decade, despite the considerable increase in rhetoric around this subject.
What do ‘early’ and ‘specialisation’ really mean?
Much of the discussion in this area positions specialisation as binary, either you are specialising or you are not, despite clear evidence that the patterns of early engagement in youth sport are more diverse.2 Usually, discussions focus on ‘engagement in a single sport to the exclusion of all others’ without acknowledging the limits of this simple distinction. For instance, if there is a dose–response relationship between the quantity and/or type of exposure and likelihood of positive outcomes, does the number …
Contributors All authors participated equally in the creation, writing and review of the manuscript.
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.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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