Kids Sports and Sports Injuries... A Silent Epidemic

An estimated 30 million children and teens play some form of organized sport. With this love /obsession of sports including extreme sports, over 3 million injuries occur in adolescents each year.

Sport, sports  and more sports. An American culture, favorite pass time and in some cases an obsession. Children's sports can be an exciting and fun part of growing up as they learn rules and teamwork, develop physical skills, friendships and gain important health benefits. According to a study from Children's Hospital in Boston an estimated 30 million children and teens play some form of organized sport. However, in the overall population physical activity amongst youngsters has decreased causing an epidemic of childhood obesity and related diseases.

With this love /obsession of sports including extreme sports, over 3 million injuries occur in adolescents each year, making sports the leading cause of adolescent injuries. An alarming rate of increased pediatric sports surgeries are on the rise with good cause for concern.

Some Common Injuries In Young Athletes:

Overuse injuries on muscles, tendons and bones occur from repetitive stress motion that comes from heavy specific sports training. Acute injuries are caused by trauma or accidents. A very common condition called Osteochrondritis Dissecans where the bone in a joint dies or dislodges creating a cavity in the joint. Most commonly seen in the knee. Pediatric ACL tears affect ligaments in the center of the knee. Apophysitises a very common injury to growth plates were were tendons insert into bones near the growth plate. The most common apophysitises occur in the front lower leg bone also know as Osgood Schlatter's disease. Apophysitis can also be seen in the shoulder, elbow, ankle/heel and foot. Children get different injuries than adults because of the growing process. Growth and maturity in a young persons body is controlled by timed hormonal changes commonly known as growth spurts and are particularly evident during puberty. These growth spurts cause decreased flexibility. The bones grow faster than the tendons, muscles and ligaments resulting in increased tightness which leads to injury when pushed or overly trained.


When children get injured physical rehabilitation will help return an athlete back to sports. Typically young children age 5-6 years of age do better with a one to one retraining program. Older children high school aged respond well to a structured group therapy program. However, specific recommendations vary from case to case. A simple but effective program call (MICE). Modification of acitivities, Ice, Compression and Elevation work wonders. Over the counter anti-inflammatory pain medications such as ibphrofen is a safe short term remedy and can help but remember they only mask the pain symptoms.

Before returning to sports make sure your athlete is SAFE with little risk or re-injury. To often young athletes return to their sport before they are completely healed. A typical road to recovery includes 1) control pain, 2) improve range of motion, 3) recover strength and flexiblity, 4) restore function pain free. Working with qualified health professionals, coaches and physical trainers that have knowledge of treating sports related injuries is imperative. 

With children starting sports as young as three years old, parents and coaches must pay special attention and modify training appropriately. If the child complains of pain or swelling with no apparent injury, night pain, fever or weight loss, these are signs to seek medical attention.

Keep in mind the more injuries and or surgeries a child endures during his/her growth period the more prone to muscular-skeletal pain later in life. A healthy balance of sports and other activities puts it all into prospective.

Recommended books: 

Care of the Young Athlete by American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine www.amazon.com   

The Adolescent Athlete: A practical Approach by Lyle J. Micheli and Laura Purcell www.amazon.com

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

md May 12, 2011 at 01:17 AM
Great piece Judy. I have 2 children starting organized sports this season. This is an important reminder about injuries and safety!
Patrick June 10, 2011 at 08:27 PM
Excellent article. Please stay with this topic. Parents of kids in youth sports should be required to hear this before their kids can play. Coaches too. I've coached several sports. Only youth hockey required training and certification. I hope this has changed. Years ago I did several news articles with Dr. Lyle Micheli, who was (and still is) considered the go-to guy in Boston for pediatric sports medicine. He was adamant that kids should knock off most sports during their growth spurts and concentrate on stretching and other forms of non-stress, non-impact conditioning. Distance running, pitching (especially throwing the curve), football, basketball all put stress on young joints that they are not ready to handle. I'd be surprised if Micheli has changed his views on this. The New York Times reported a few years ago that girls playing soccer, especially at higher levels, are sustaining knee, hip and back injuries at an astounding rate. Check it out. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/11/magazine/11Girls-t.html This is a great topic for follow-up, Ms. Hudson. Maybe some case studies you've dealt with. We're not doing our kids any favors by pushing them into physical activities their bodies aren't ready to handle.
Eric Esterling June 15, 2011 at 02:45 AM
Hi Judy, I would love to see a follow up on preventing shoulder injuries.
Easton Pilates & Myofascial Release June 17, 2011 at 01:20 PM
Hi Patrick, Thanks for you're comment. Sometimes allit takes is a little education and awareness to put everything into prospective.
Easton Pilates & Myofascial Release June 17, 2011 at 01:22 PM
Hi Eric, Thank you for you're interest. Stay tuned for more injury prevention topics. The shoulder is a very complex joint. More to come.


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