Youth sports injuries are on the rise. More than 38 million children and adolescents participate in organized sports each year in the United States alone, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2.6. million children 0 – 19 years old are treated in emergency rooms every year for sports and recreation related injuries. Sports and recreation type injuries are also the single most common cause of visits to primary care physicians. An alarming statistic is 40 – 70% of these types of injuries are due to overuse. That is a huge number! What is causing this alarming rate of youth sports injuries?
OVERUSE: One example of this includes playing too many games over the course of the year. Baseball, for example, used to be a summer sport. For many it is almost year round now. To add to this problem, many youths are specializing in a sport at much too young of an age. This is the time in their lives that they should be participating in many different types of activities, allowing muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones to be exposed to various types of stresses which will allow for normal growth and overall health. This helps prevent stresses from building up in limited areas of the body which leads to overuse.
Children need to be exposed to multiple activities while they are developing. In the good old days, for me the 1960’s, sport seasons were much shorter. Kids played two and three sports during the school year. There wasn’t all the league games during the week, followed by tournaments all weekend long. It is nothing for youths to play six to seven baseball games in a week. Some kids even play on multiple teams during the week. They are playing as much or more than professional athletes. Children’s bodies aren’t mature enough for this. Children should not do the same activities as adults. I have seen kids play two or three baseball games in one day, then leave to go play in a soccer game. This is a sure fire recipe for injury or burn out. In fact, 75% of grade school athletes won’t play sports in high school because they will either be injured or burned out.
POOR MECHANICS: This includes throwing, running, jumping, landing from a jump, etc. If a person doesn’t have good mechanics, they are going to break down – period. The only question is when will they break down.
POOR CONDITIONING: People often take up a sport thinking that will get them in shape, when they should be properly conditioned to play the sport first. Many athletes progress through the season actually de-conditioning because their sport isn’t enough to keep them in shape. This is one reason a lot of sports injuries occur later in the season. Additionally, we see a lot of athletes not conditioning in the off season and pre-season properly. How many professional athletes go to camp and get injured before the season even starts? And these are the professionals! Children and adolescents are at bigger risk due to the way their bodies develop.
So what are some solutions?
- Keep kids exercising. Exercises should be geared to the child’s age and developmental level. There are exercises to fit everyone. If you are not sure what those are, that is why we are here. We offer special programs specifically geared to athletes of ALL ages. Simply contact us and we can get you started.
- Treat injuries with RICE: rest, ice, compression and elevation.
- Rest or reduce activity to the injured area for at least 48 hours. Ice injured area in 20 minute intervals 4 – 8 times a day.
- Compression with elastic wraps, air casts, special boots, or splints can also be helpful.
- Elevation: Keep injured area elevated above the level of the heart to help reduce swelling.
- Play it safe in the heat. Drink 8 ounces of fluid, preferably water, every 20 minutes and continue after the game.
So what are a couple of tips that parents and coaches can do? Try and group kids according to their skill level and size. Don’t push a child too hard, let them have fun. Don’t let a child try and play through pain.
Some tips for the kids? Be in good condition to play. Wear appropriate protective gear. Don’t play when overly tired or in pain. Have a good warm up and cool down routine for before and after every practice and game.
Children can learn a lot about life and and themselves through athletics. Let’s make sure they can do it safely.Read More