Specializing in one sport leads to more stress, study finds

Focusing on one sport rather than participating in multiple different sports could lead to more stress for young athletes, one study found.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health studied nearly 50 teenage women soccer players in Wisconsin who quit other sports to pursue soccer. The researchers recorded hours of sleep the athletes got a night, fatigue levels, soreness and mood quality among other factors related to well-being.

After a four-month soccer season, the study showed the group of athletes that specialized in soccer had worse sleep quality, stress and moods than the group of athletes that played multiple sports at the same time.

“This study doesn’t answer whether sport specialization itself interferes with a youth athlete’s sleep and well-being,” said Dr. Drew Watson, the lead author of the study.

“But it does suggest there are differences between single and multi-sport youth athletes that could affect injury risk, performance, or lifelong athletic participation. Further research is needed to determine whether this can help explain differences in injury risk or long-term athletic success,” Watson said.