USA Today reported that 41.5 million children were involved in team sports in 2011. That same report found more than 1.35 million young athletes wound up in the emergency room from sports injuries.
Sprains and strains topped the list of sports-related injuries. These injuries assume more than $935 million in health care costs annually.
Another study in the Journal of Medical Science and Sports Exercise found similar results. Ankle problems due to sports injuries were the second most common injury treated by pediatricians.
President and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide said too many emergency room injuries were predictable and preventable. Find out why these injuries happen, and what you can do to prevent them in your young athlete.
Why are Young Athletes More Susceptible to Injury?
There are many reasons why youths are more susceptible to sports injuries. Knowing why can help us to protect them better and prevent the astronomical number of injuries happening in youth sports today.
Children and youth are still developing physically, and this is a primary reason they are more susceptible to injury. The ligaments, muscles, and bones of a child are still in their growth stages. Children also have different stamina levels in comparison to adults whose muscles and bones have matured.
Ortho Info reports that younger children are less likely to experience injury over more mature athletes. More mature athletes at the high school level are stronger, larger, and more experienced in their athletic events.
Athletes that are still growing are going to be more injury-prone than grown-ups. This is the primary reason children sustain more injuries annually. At the same time, children are not as mature as adults cognitively and emotionally.
Adults are more likely to be more prepared when it comes to sports. They are more likely to wear proper protective gear, move slower when needed, or faster than needed. Their planning capabilities are also more developed. This means they are more likely to make the preparations needed to prevent injury.
Even adults who have already sustained an injury are more likely to take the necessary precautions to ensure it doesn't happen again. But repetitive injuries are common in young athletes, particularly in youth with ankle and foot injuries. Once an injury has occurred in a specific location, the athlete is more at risk of injuring it again, and sometimes even more severely.
What are the Most Common Types of Sports Injuries in Youth?
Identifying the most common types of sports injuries in youth goes a long way towards injury and illness prevention.
The most common sports injuries in youth are ankle injuries. These include sprains and strains, twists and falls, and ankle fractures. First Aid treatment such as rest, ice, and elevation are often the first step of treatment. But immediate medical intervention for ankle fractures is required.
The Pediatric Sports and Exercise Medicine Section conducted a study on sports injuries in young athletes. They found that 8% of injuries in youth in the emergency department were sports-related. They also found that 41% of those injuries were related to musculoskeletal injuries.
Of those, 34% were sprains, and 25% were fractures. These findings are similar to other studies across the board. Sprains are the most common sports injuries in young athletes. Contusions or bruises are the second most common.
Fractures are the third most common. Overuse injuries are also common.
The Journal of Orthopedic Clinicians in North America defined overuse injuries as injuries which occur when an athlete endures constant stress to the body without enough recovery time after an injury.
How to Prevent Injuries in Youth Sports
Overuse injuries are common. Preventing those injuries goes a long way towards preventing future injuries altogether.
These injuries occur gradually, worsening over time if not properly treated. When the athlete returns to the sport too soon after an injury, the incidence rate of overuse injury will be repeated. The most common overuse injuries are Achilles tendinitis, shin splints, or elbow problems.
The study in the Journal of Orthopedic Clinicians learned there were 17 overuse injuries per 1,000 runners.
Injury and illness prevention can occur with more consistent coaching styles. If a coach returns an athlete to the game too early, the chances of overuse injury increase.
Sometimes athletes are too eager to return to the game as well and will ignore pain when it comes up. This puts the growing young athletes at risk for further injury.
Both parents and coaches can achieve injury and illness prevention together by keeping a closer eye on their young athletes. Things to look for include:
- changes in normal technique or form
- a lowered interest in practice sessions of the sport
We should never teach students that it's okay to work through pain when sports injuries occur. Growing children could create further injuries to themselves by training through an overuse injury.
For example, ankle problems not treated and healed completely early on after an injury could lead to lifelong ankle injuries as an adult. Overuse injuries with a growing child could impair function enough that an adult has a decreased ability to work.
Sports injuries in young athletes could impair earning potential as an adult and should be attended to immediately. Overuse injuries are preventable by placing limits on athletes soon after a new injury.
How to Get Back into the Game
Children and youth heal rather quickly after sports injuries. Making sure they are treated properly, to begin with, is one critical step in injury prevention.
Dr. Philbin of the Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Center says injury prevention occurs when the young athlete undergoes proper conditioning after being treated for an injury. He also notes that illness and injury prevention in young athletes can occur when the athlete is more prepared and takes precautions with proper equipment.
Rest is critical after a sports injury such as an ankle sprain or fracture. But doctors today who are treating ankle sprains and fractures recommend young athletes get up and moving as soon as possible. This promotes healing and will also get the athlete back into the game sooner than prolonged rest periods.
Choose the Right Doctor for Sports Injuries
Sports injuries in young athletes are common, and impact millions of students every day. They also add a billion-dollar burden to the healthcare system. Injury and illness prevention from sports is critical to bringing those numbers down.
When an athlete is injured, they need immediate medical attention in order to prevent further sports injuries. Injuries upon injuries could impair a young athlete's quality of life as an adult.
Choosing the right orthopedic doctor is the most important step to getting your athlete back in the game. In New York, receive immediate treatment from orthopedic foot and ankle doctor Dr. David Levine for sports injuries in young athletes.