Preventing Youth Sports Injuries

Knees and other joints are vulnerable to youth sports injuries.
Knees and other joints are vulnerable to youth sports injuries.. Anderson Ross/Digital Vision - Getty images

While sports and exercise have undeniable benefits, they also have risks. Every year, kids suffer millions of youth sports injuries, from sprains to concussions to heat stroke. To keep your child safe, know the dangers.

What youth sports have the most injuries?

What sports injuries do kids sustain?

  • Concussion, sometimes known as traumatic brain injury, can happen any time a child suffers a blow to the head, face, or neck—even one that seems minor.
  • Sprains and strains of ligaments, muscles and tendons. Ankles are most vulnerable.
  • Broken bones: Since kids' bones are still growing, the growth plates—areas at the ends of their long bones—are susceptible to injury. Long bones include those in the fingers, hand, forearm, legs, and feet.
  • Repetitive motion injuries, such as stress fractures and tendonitis. These painful injuries result from overuse of muscles and tendons.
  • Heat-related illnesses: Kids are at risk for dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, especially if they exercise vigorously during hot and humid weather.

Can youth sports injuries be prevented?

Accidents will always happen, but you can take steps to make sure your child is as safe as possible while playing sports or exercising.

  • Get a check-up. Many teams require this, but if your child's doesn't, schedule a pre-participation physical exam anyway. This helps identify any underlying conditions or other areas of concern. Also ask about a pre-season concussion assessment, especially if your child plays a contact sport.
  • Get the gear. Make sure your child has all the safety gear she needs, including a mouthguard, and that it is in good condition. Periodically check for wear and tear and make sure sizes are appropriate.
  • Stay in shape. Proper conditioning helps prevent overuse injuries (such as stress fractures or torn ligaments). Your child needs to be sufficiently fit before he plays competitively. Cross-training (working many different muscles of the body) also helps.
  • Be flexible. Teach your child to warm up before a workout and cool down after. Stretching helps minimize muscle strains and other soft-tissue injuries.
  • Keep cool. To lessen the risk of heat-related illnesses, make sure your child drinks plenty of water before, during, and after a workout. Sports drinks work, too. If she's exercising outside, she needs sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat if possible.
  • Choose teams, programs, and coaches wisely. Find out how the organization works to prevent youth sports injuries. It should have policies and procedures in place to minimize risks to athletes. Coaches need to know how to use safety equipment and make sure players use it every time. They should also have a good command of basic first aid.

Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2006). Sports-Related Injuries Among High School Athletes – United States, 2005-06 School Year. MMWR 2006; 55(38);1037-1040.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nonfatal Sports- and Recreation-Related Injuries Treated in Emergency Departments — United States, July 2000–June 2001. MMWR 2002; 51: 736-740.

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (2006). Childhood Sports Injuries and Their Prevention: A Guide for Parents With Ideas for Kids. NIH Publication No. 06-4821. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health.

National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (2006). Heads Up Concussion in High School Sports: A Fact Sheet for Parents. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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