Youth Sports Injury Report: What Parents Need to Know

You can’t welcome fall without welcoming fall sports. And fall is the season of youth and growth, especially for kids! Involving kids in sports brings about many benefits including staying fit and active. Still, there is always the risk of injury.

Dr. Zachary Stinson, MD who works in the Department of Orthopedics at Nemours Children’s Health provides both surgical and nonsurgical treatment options to take care of injured young athletes.

Here he provides insight on common injuries to look out for, how to prevent them and warning signs that you should seek medical attention.

Common Injuries by Type of Sport per Dr. Stinson:

  • For teenage female soccer players, the most common injury is an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear.
  • For female gymnasts, injuries most commonly occur to the elbow. Gymnasts can also have overuse injuries to the growth plate below the wrist, called “gymnast wrist”.
  • Adolescent female distance runners are at risk for bone stress injuries, and this is especially true in underweight athletes, who may be at risk for a condition called relative energy deficit in sport (RED-S).
  • Male basketball players in their early teenage years are prone to inflammation of the patellar tendon attachment to the knee, called apophysitis. This can also result in a severe traumatic fracture of the patellar tendon attachment to the tibia, called a tibial tuberosity fracture. The most common injury for all basketball players, male or female, is an ankle sprain. However, for younger athletes with open growth plates, an ankle “sprain” results in an injury that affects the growth plate at the end of the fibula, or outer ball of the ankle. We also call these lateral ankle injuries.
  • Baseball players most commonly experience shoulder or elbow pain. In younger players, especially pitchers, this is due to inflammation in the growth plate. In older players, this can lead to changes in the structure of the bone that has long term effects.
  • Tackle football players have a significant risk of injury, and there are multiple types of injuries commonly seen in football players. This includes ACL tears, fractures of the arm and leg, concussions, and shoulder dislocations.

Prevention Measures:

“I would tell parents that while it is impossible to eliminate injury risk, there are some proven methods to dramatically decrease the risk of injuries in youth sports,” Dr. Stinson says. 

A few of those methods include:

  1. The use of specialized ACL injury prevention training, especially for female soccer players.
  2. Reviewing the pitching guidelines that should be followed for young baseball pitchers that vary by age.
  3. Regularly asking throwing athletes if they have shoulder or elbow pain, and it is never appropriate to let a player continue to play through this type of pain.
  4. Avoiding early sport specialization. This is defined as participating in any one single sport for 8 months or more out of a given year.

It is important to note that certain sports carry a much higher risk of injury than others.

“For instance, tackle football or motocross have a high risk of serious injuries that are difficult to avoid despite our best efforts at safety and injury prevention,” says Dr. Stinson. “Sports such as golf, tennis, swimming, and water polo have a very low risk of injury, especially if overtraining is avoided.”

When you should see a doctor:

“If a child is unable to fully bend or flex at a joint, such as the wrist, elbow, knee, or ankle or if they are unable to put full weight on an injured leg, then those are definite indications to seek appropriate medical attention,” Dr. Stinson says. 


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Written by Alexis George

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