M.S.A.T. program medical director participates in national discussion on youth sports

Portrait of Michele LaBotz
Michele LaBotz, M.D., medical director of the Master of Science in Athletic Training (M.S.A.T.) program.

Michele LaBotz, M.D., medical director of the Master of Science in Athletic Training (M.S.A.T.) program at the University of New England, recently participated in a national media briefing hosted by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) discussing sports specialization in youth.

The panel, “Variety is the Spice of Sport,” was held virtually on Thursday, Oct. 19, and featured interdisciplinary health care and medical experts, hosted by NATA President Kathy Dieringer, Ed.D., LAT, ATC. The event wrapped up NATA’s Youth Sport Specialization Awareness Week, held annually during the third week of October.

Experts discussed the benefits of playing a varied roster of sports, compared to focusing on any one sport, during adolescence. Sport specialization at an early age, they said, has been associated with increased risk of burnout and injury later in development.

Instead of focusing on one sport from the start, LaBotz said it is preferable for children to learn the broad benefits of physical activity, which will make them better overall athletes and prepare them for later specialization.

“Before children develop those sport-specific skills — before they become particularly a soccer player or a lacrosse player — they should really kind of build this foundation of general athleticism,” she said. “If they do that, the sport-specific skills are probably going to come more easily, and they're likely to have greater success because they're going to have more tools in their movement toolbox.”

LaBotz also said it is beneficial for health care providers and athletic trainers to be aware of the stress and burnout that can come with early sport specialization, and she said the best way to get children moving is to keep activities fun.
“Keep it fun, or else they’re not going to do it,” she said.

A resident of Yarmouth, Maine, LaBotz received her medical degree from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College. She is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and additionally holds a Certificate of Added Qualification in Sports Medicine. 

As medical director, LaBotz works to strengthen the curriculum of UNE’s M.S.A.T. degree program by ensuring students are receiving the most up-to-date training in accordance with current trends in sports medicine while providing expert instruction to students in support of their clinical education.

View the full media briefing at https://vimeo.com/876456084.