Summary of an article investigating how the age of specialization influences the risk of injuries in elite weightlifters.
141 (female: 98, male: 43) elite weightlifters aged 27.9 (±6.07) years (USA). The athletes had to be top 20 in their weight category (female: 7, male: 8 weight classes).
Online survey (multiple choice and open-ended questions).
- injuries and surgeries which required taking a year or more away from weightlifting
- age of specialization (age group at which the athlete stopped playing other sports)
- who decided on specialization
- Out of 141 elite weightlifters:
- 16 (11%) specialized during the Youth age group (mean age of specialization 13.4 (±2.58))
- 18 (13%) specialized during the Junior age group (mean age of specialization 17.4 (±2.21))
- 107 (78%) did not specialize before 21.
- Who decided to specialize:
- athlete 59 (45%)
- coach 56 (43%)
- Serious injury or surgery before the age of 21 was reported by 8 (6%) athletes: 5 specialized at the Youth age group, 1 specialized as a Junior, and 2 did not specialize by 21. The difference between the proportion of injured athletes in Youth and the nonspecialized groups was statistically significant.
- Serious injury or surgery after the age of 21 was reported by 17 (12%) athletes: 2 specialized at the Youth age group, 4 socialized as Junior, and 11 did not specialize by 21. No statistically significant difference.
- 69% of athletes thought that it was not necessary to specialize in the Youth age group to achieve an elite level, but 41% of athletes felt that specialization at the Junior age was necessary.
Take home message
Bush CM, Wilhelm AJ, Lavallee ME, Deitch JR. Early Sport Specialization in Elite Weightlifters: Weightlifting Injury Occurrence and Relevant Opinions. Journal of strength and conditioning research. 2019 Jul.