Research News

UW’s Brooks, Bell receive grant to study ‘Sports Specialization’

May 03, 2016

UW-Madison’s Dr. M. Alison Brooks, along with co-investigator David Bell, is the 2016 recipient of the American Medical Society for sports Medicine (AMSSM) Foundation American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Foundation Clinical Research Grant for her research titled, “Parent-Athlete Knowledge of Sport Volume Recommendations, Attitudes and Beliefs towards Sport Specialization.”

In its fourth year, this collaborative project between the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine and the American College of Sports Medicine funds a single research award of $20,000.

“There is growing evidence and concern that early sport specialization and high year-round training volumes increase risk of injury and burnout in young athletes,” said Brooks, who serves as an assistant professor of orthopedics, Division of Sports Medicine, at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, and as a team physician for UW Athletics. “Recommendations exist in an effort to reduce overuse injuries associated with sport specialization and include methods of limiting volume including months per year and hours per week of participation in organized sport activities.”

Brooks also mentioned, “However, it is unclear if parents and athletes are even aware that these recommendations exist. There seems to be a major disconnect in the reasons for participation in youth sport between stakeholders associated with youth sport (children, parents, coaches, and youth sport administration organizations). This study aims to decrease this knowledge gap by evaluating parents’ and athletes’ knowledge of current sport volume recommendations and examine their attitudes and beliefs towards youth sport specialization.”

Bell is an assistant professor with the Department of Kinesiology’s Athletic Training Program and the director of the Wisconsin Injury in Sport Laboratory (WISL). The Department of Kinesiology is housed within the School of Education.

“There were many excellent grant applications for the joint AMSSM Foundation - ACSM Foundation 2016 award. Our review committee consisted of experts selected from both organizations. Ultimately, there was agreement that the application from Dr. Brooks and David Bell on assessing the knowledge, attitudes and beliefs of parents and youth athletes toward sport specialization was worthy of the award,” said AMSSM member Dr. Steve Stovitz, who chaired the joint organization review committee. “The proposal is ambitious, aiming to survey 1,000 parents and 1,000 youth athletes. The committee concluded that the study would provide the sports medicine community with useful information about the intensity of sport participation and the beliefs of the participants and their parents.”

Brooks was previously a scholar of the BIRCWH K12 program, a career development award funded by the National Institutes of Health. Her interests in sports medicine and research include the prevention of musculoskeletal injuries in youth and collegiate athletes, the risk of injury associated with early sport specialization and sport training volume, and achieving optimal bone health in athletes of all ages. She recently completed a large cohort study of high school football players in Wisconsin showing that the incidence of concussion in football practice was significantly reduced by newly implemented interscholastic rules limiting full contact practice.

She received her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science at University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and medical degree from the University of Tennessee. She completed a pediatrics residency and Master of Public Health at University of Washington. Her Sports Medicine Fellowship was done at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The primary purpose of the AMSSMF-ACSMF Clinical Research Grant Award is to foster original scientific investigations with a strong clinical focus among physician members of AMSSM and ACSM. A secondary intent of the grant program is to foster the development of the principal investigator’s research education by requiring that a portion of the funds to be applied to meet this goal. The review committee sought research proposals that investigate research questions within the broad discipline of sports medicine. The criteria required proposals to be led by physicians who are members of both AMSSM and ACSM.