Why is Youth Sports Participation on the Decline?

After decades of rapid growth, youth sports participation is on the decline, according to a study of 17 sports between 2009 and 2014 by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.  Youth athletics have witnessed an overall decline of over nine percent, with some sports increasing in participation, and others decreasing.

The Aspen Institute also provided research on youth sports participation, finding that there are more inactive children now than five years prior, and participation in all major sports has decreased, except for hockey and lacrosse, which have grown. The researchers attribute the trend to a perception by parents that children are too focused on athletics. Parents could be turning towards other extracurricular activities for their children, like playing an instrument.

However, there may be other underlying causes to the monumental shift in sports participation. ESPN wrote an article about the subject, noting that the “No. 1 fear of sports parents is seeing their child injured on the field.” It turns out that this is an increasingly real fear. The article cites injury stats from the CDC, which state that 2.7 million kids under 20 were treated for ‘sports and recreation’ injuries between 2001 and 2009, and reports of traumatic brain injuries for those under 19 rose 62% over the same period.


While this may be a contributing factor, injury information is still far behind where it should be, and with better injury documentation, management, and overwatch, the risk of youth sports may be lowered enough to entice parents back to youth athletics. Until then, youth athletics may continue to see increasing attrition rates.

Cited articles:



The Misconceptions of Sport Specialization

Youth sports are growing more competitive. Budding athletes face increasing pressure to specialize in a sport from parents who believe that focusing on a single athletic pursuit will result in better performance development, potentially leading to a college scholarships or even a professional career.

However, recent studies show that early specialization can actually be detrimental for the development of Youth Athletes.As Wall Street Journal points out, not only is specialization correlated with an increased frequency of overuse injuries and early burnout, some of the most successful athletes in history actually participated in multiple sports. Ben Cohen, a sportswriter that follows basketball, points to Steph Curry as a poster child against early specialization in a sport.

Click here for the full article.


1.35 million youths a year have serious sports injuries

Far too many kids are arriving in emergency rooms for injuries that are predictable and preventable,” Carr says.

Using data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, the report focused on pediatric sports injuries related to 14 common sports activities, including football, cheerleading, soccer and basketball. More than 46.5 million children played team sports in 2011, says the report.

It finds that in 2012, 12% of all ER visits (163,670) involved a concussion, the equivalent of one every three minutes. Nearly half (47%) were in kids ages 12 to 15.

That’s particularly troubling, given research showing that younger athletes take a longer time to heal than older athletes after a concussion, which is a traumatic brain injury, because their bodies are still growing, Carr says. “And we know that a second concussion later can cause even more issues.”

Why are kids injured more often in sports?


Over the last quarter-century, there has been a startling shift in how children are coached and trained in youth sports programs. Gone are the days when kids played multiple sports with breaks both during and between seasons. Today, kids specialize in one sport from increasingly young ages. At the same time, they are asked to perform at increasingly higher levels: USA gymnastics offers structured competition as early as age 4; Little League Baseball has training programs that start at age 5.

Insurance Doesn’t Eliminate Risk for Top College Athletes Who Forgo Draft


“When there’s a claim, there’s basically two aspects that are front and center,” Justin Siegel of Parq Advisors said. “The first is, was the player materially injured, and did that affect the projected amount of income? Second is, was everything disclosed?”

The High Cost of Insuring Athletes by Steve Yahn

This is a huge problem in sports leagues of all levels.

The most glaring problem in the NCAA’s health care is that once a student-athlete is no longer enrolled in a university program and under scholarship, they no longer receive any medical help from their school, experts said. That is a big problem for former athletes who have injuries that limit mobility, affect quality of life and impede the ability to find jobs.

Read more here.