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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

In 2016, multiple studies found that youth athletes who specialized in one sport and played it year round (as opposed to being multi-sport athletes) were at significantly higher risk of suffering an overuse injury.

Why it matters: This has become an increasingly alarming issue since those studies were released — particularly when it comes to basketball, the most popular youth sport in America.

  • Today's young players are faster, stronger and play more basketball than ever before — but repetitive impact on and usage of the same muscles and bones leave them injury prone.
  • Even the most athletically-gifted players are physically broken down by the time they reach the NBA. Proof: The four highest tallies of games missed by young players in their first two pro seasons have occurred in the past four years.
"They have more miles at a younger age and then, when they get to the NBA, they're less mature structurally and physically. Even though they look like giants, they just can't tolerate as much."
UNC sports science expert Darin Padua, via ESPN

The big picture: Kids who play basketball consistently between ages 7 and 19 could play more than 1,000 organized games, according to estimates. For reference, 29-year-old James Harden has played 881 games in his NBA career — and that includes the playoffs.

  • Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant says he didn't start intensely training until age 15 and barely played organized games during the summer — evidence of just how much has changed over the generations.
  • "You try to overload these kids and get them to be the best in one year. It's just absolutely ridiculous," he told ESPN.

A potential solution: Three years ago, the NBA and USA Basketball released their first-ever guidelines for youth basketball. One of their main recommendations: delaying specialization until at least age 14.

  • Yes, but: Enforcing those guidelines is no easy task. After all, while Little League has pitch counts, there's no equivalent on the hardwood.

The bottom line: While basketball presents the most striking case, specialization can lead to heightened injury risk across all sports.

  • When you add in the fact that it can also result in burnout, it's hard to argue against playing multiple sports at the youth level (or at least abandoning the "embrace the grind" ethos).

Go deeper

Updated 49 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Trump, Melania received COVID vaccine at White House in January — CDC director warns "now is not the time" to lift COVID restrictions.
  2. Vaccine: J&J CEO "absolutely" confident in vaccine distribution goals Most states aren't prioritizing prisons for COVID vaccines — Vaccine hesitancy is shrinking.
  3. Economy: Apple says all U.S. stores open for the first time since start of pandemic — What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.
  5. World: Italy tightens restrictions as experts warn of growing prevalence of variants — PA announces new COVID restrictions as cases surge.
  6. Local: Colorado sets timeline for return to normalcy.
Updated 52 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Trump received COVID vaccine at White House in January

Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

Former President Trump and former first lady Melania Trump were both vaccinated at the White House in January, a Trump adviser tells Axios.

Why it matters: Trump declared at CPAC on Sunday that "everybody" should get the coronavirus vaccine — the first time he's encouraged his supporters, who have been more skeptical of getting vaccinated, to do so.

Biden administration seeks to allow separated migrant families to reunite in U.S.

Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced Monday that the Biden administration will explore "lawful pathways" to allow migrant families separated under the Trump administration to reunite in the U.S.

Why it matters: Biden has pledged to reunite the hundreds of families still separated as a result of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy, and signed an executive order last month creating a family separation task force chaired by Mayorkas.