According to a recent study published in The Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, single-sport athletes who specialize in baseball at a young age may have a greater predisposition to overuse injury, burnout, and decreased career longevity when compared with multiple-sport athletes.
The effect of sport specialization has not been previously studied in professional baseball players. The authors hypothesized that Major League Baseball (MLB) players who played multiple sports in high school would experience fewer injuries, spend less time on the disabled list, play more games, and have a longer career than athletes who played only baseball in high school.
First- and second-round MLB draft picks from 2008 to 2016 who played in at least 1 professional game were included in this study. Athletes who participated in one or more sports in addition to baseball during high school were considered multisport athletes, and athletes who participated in only baseball were considered single-sport athletes. For each athlete, participation in high school sports, injuries sustained in MLB and Minor League Baseball, number of days on the disabled list for each injury, number of games played in both leagues, and whether the athlete was still active were collected from publicly available records.
A total of 746 athletes were included in this study: 240 (32%) multisport and 506 (68%) single sport. Single-sport athletes had a significantly higher prevalence of upper extremity injuries compared with multisport athletes and single-sport pitchers also had a higher prevalence of shoulder and elbow and were more likely to have recurrent elbow injuries compared with multisport pitchers.
The authors concluded that professional baseball players who participated in multiple sports in high school played in more major league games and experienced lower rates of upper and lower extremity injuries than players who played only baseball in high school.