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Reducing the risk of injury in young footballers

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 18 March 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1050
  1. Carolyn Broderick, staff specialist, paediatric sports medicine,
  2. Damien McKay, paediatric rheumatology and sports medicine fellow
  1. 1Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, Australia 2145
  1. c.broderick{at}

    Classifying players by skeletal age rather than chronological age may be preferable

    The risks and benefits of children and adolescents participating in elite sports have long been debated. Reports of growth retardation in elite gymnasts and degenerative joint disease in the elbows of young baseball players have caused anxiety among parents and sporting bodies. In contrast, Ericsson’s theory of deliberate practice dictates the need for high volumes of training at a young age to reach expert level in skilled tasks including sport.1 Health and sports professionals need answers to help with the understandable confusion confronting the parents of our next generation of athletes. In the linked study (doi:10.1136/bmj.b490), Johnson and colleagues assess growth, development, and factors associated with injury in elite schoolboy footballers.2

    The evidence base shows common themes in different sports. The incidence of injury increases with chronological age and pubertal stage.3 4 5 Despite weight for age competitions in several youth sports—including American football, rugby union, and wrestling—the evidence on whether height or weight is …

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