More On Early Specialisation

If you have a pre-adolescent child in a football academy, you may want to read this.

Dr Andy Franklyn-Miller just posted an interesting article from the British Journal of Sports Medicine looking into the relationship between the frequency of football practice during skeletal growth and the presence of a cam deformity in adult elite football players.

The study isn’t ideal and leaves us with more questions than answers but the correlation between training frequency within a professional club before 12yrs and the formation of bony growths on the hip is significant. Here’s the quick science bit from the study.

“A cam deformity is present when there is extra bone formation at the anterolateral head–neck junction. This cam deformity can be forced into the acetabulum particularly during flexion and internal rotation of the hip, a situation referred to as cam impingement. Cam impingement is associated with decreased internal hip rotation, groin pain and ultimately osteoarthritis of the hip.
A cam deformity becomes radiographically visible during early adolescence, around the age of 12–13 years. It was recently found that a cam deformity in football players probably only develops during skeletal maturation of the hip, when the proximal femoral growth plate is open.

The authors feel this strongly suggests that most cam deformities are the result of a structural bony adaptation to high impact sports. However, it is unknown in which specific age range during adolescence high impact loading patterns on the hip lead to this adaptation. It is also unknown whether the frequency or duration of playing football in young football players affects the prevalence of a cam deformity.”

We do not know what type of training the players were subjected to. What was the involvement of strength and plyometric training?

Did the frequency of football training prevent the players from pursuing other sports and activities thus creating pattern overload (in my eyes just as likely to cause bony adaptation)?

Whatever, it’s another great reason to look more deeply into the way we develop our future champions.

Please read Andy’s original overview, here.

If you want to read the original BSMJ study, go here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject of early specialisation in football?

I’ll respond to all comments.

Train smart!

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