Spring is the season for new hope of athletic conquests on the athletic field but it is also a new season for youth sport injuries. April is National Youth Sports Safety Month and the focus is on reducing the number and severity of injuries young players sustain in sports.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) high school athletes suffer an estimated 2 million injuries and represent 500,000 doctor visits and 30,00 hospitalizations every year.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons(AAOS) state every year more that 3.5 million children age 14 and younger are treated for sports injuries. Orthopedic surgeons are seeing a rise in the number of youth sports injuries and a drop in the age of young athletes who suffer overuse injuries.
Why are youth sport injuries on the rise? Most notably the overuse injury increase is a result of children specializing in one sport with year-round participation, rather than participating in a variety of activities. Additionally many young athletes are being pushed too hard or being thrown into intense athletic activity without proper conditioning. Athletes are reporting an unhealthy level of pressure to “win at all costs‚Äù, which can easily overload them both physically and psychologically.
Young athletes bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments are still growing which leave them vulnerable to injury. Many times an injury that would cause a bruise or sprain in an adult can be a potentially serious growth plate injury in a young athlete. Be sure to seek appropriate medical attention if your athlete suffers an injury that they can’ “just walk off.‚Äù
According to AAOS one-third of sports injuries are classified as sprains. Sprains are a partial or complete tear of a ligament. Strains on the other hand are a partial or complete tear of a muscle or tendon. Spinal cord injuries are rare, accounting for 10 percent of all spinal injuries. Sports related spinal injuries most commonly occur during diving, surfing and football. Fractures mostly to the arms and legs constitute 5-6% of all sports injuries. Stress fractures, a minor crack in the bone can progress to a true fracture if activities are not suspended. The most common stress fractures occur in the tibia (the larger leg bone below the knee), fibula (the outer and thinner leg bone below the knee) and the foot.
Sports concussions seem commonplace in the American sports psyche but they should be considered a serious injury. The CDC reports that as many as 3.8 million sports and recreation related concussions occur in the United States each year. 6% of youth sports related emergency department visits each year involve concussion. 60% of high school concussions in boys are related to football. Click here for my Concussion in Sports blog.
How to Prevent Injury
- Wear protective gear: Make sure your kids wear the appropriate gear for their chosen sport. Wear a well-fitted helmet, wrist guards, knee and elbow pads, shin guards, mouth guards and a protective cup for boys.
- Maintain the gear: Make sure the protective gear is maintained correctly and in good condition. Replace as your child grows to ensure the correct fit.
- Practice the correct moves: Correct biomechanics, or movement and alignment also play a role in preventing injuries. Slowly increase activities to improve physical fitness, this provides a good basis of overall fitness, which can protect participants from injury.
- Stay hydrated: Young athletes need time to gradually adjust to hot or humid environments to prevent heat-related injuries or illness. Make sure your players are hydrated and appropriately dressed.
- Model good coaching and safety behavior: follow the golden rule of coaching to inspire with encouragement, praise, approval and acceptance. Develop good safety habits such as wearing a helmet and following the rules.
Be sure to keep the youth in youth sports. Athletics is a great way to teach our kids new skills, how to follow directions, teamwork, and a way to boost their confidence and self-esteem. Pushing them too far and too fast can lead to injuries that might permanently remove them from the game.