Athletic participation, and leading an active lifestyle is very important for children, young adults, and people of all ages. Physical activity and playing in sports have been shown to help reduce rates of obesity and diabetes as well as many other health conditions.

For children participating in sports or even things like recreational bike riding not only helps improve their physical fitness, it can also serve other intrinsic purposes. Youth athletes tend to learn about things like good sportsmanship, discipline, improved diet, and participation can even encourage them to expand their limits.

However, sports and vigorous athletic hobbies do come with the inherent risk of injury. Being able to identify the more common types of injuries of a particular sport can help with prevention, and encourage your child to have a more positive experience.

The Cause Of Athletic Injuries Can Vary With Age

Children younger than 8 years old tend to be at greater risk for athletic injuries. This is largely related to their slower reaction times and lack of coordination. Rapid changes in height and weight from growth can also be a factor with coordination issues. As they grow and develop these issues tend to improve.

For some children, early adolescence can also lead to increased risk of injury. The human body tends to develop the outer limbs first, then the core and trunk of the body. In some instances, this can lead to an “Awkward Phase.” Adolescents also have a tendency to exercise poor judgment at times, which can leave them at increased for injury or a bodily collision.

For older adolescents, injuries can often be related to the size and force of a collision or fall. An 8-year old in Pop-Warner football may only weigh around 60 pounds. When they bump into another 60-pound child the amount of force exerted is minimal.

Yet for a 17-year-old varsity football player, weighing in around 200-pounds, the force of an open field tackle can be significantly greater. This increases their chances of suffering more serious injuries like broken bones, severe sprains, concussions, or damage to connective tissues in joints.

Tips To Help Prevent Sports Injuries

There are several things that you can do to reduce the chances of your child suffering an athletic injury. A basic physical examination atThe Pediatric Group is certainly a very wise start. We can perform any necessary physical exams that might be required by the school or athletic organization, as well as give you tips on how to prevent specific injuries in that sport.

Using Proper Safety Equipment

Different sports and activities come with their own unique, inherent risks. Most require some level of safety equipment. Protective pads, special helmets, mouth guards, and even the right type of footwear can reduce your child’s chances of suffering an injury.

Today many athletic organizations, clubs, and schools require a basic level of protective equipment before a youth athlete can participate. Depending on the sport or activity our physicians might make additional recommendations. For instance, if your child wears corrective lenses, we might recommend prescription shatterproof glasses.

The quality of the equipment can also be a factor. It can help to speak with the school or your child’s coach about the appropriate gear they recommend. You should also double check to make sure that all protective equipment has been approved by the organizations that govern each of the sports.

The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment or NOCSAE (https://nocsae.org/) sets many of the standards for protective equipment like helmets, and facemasks, as well as body padding like shin guards.

Classifying Common Youth Sports Injuries

Most athletic injuries in youth sports are classified as either being acute, related to overuse, or are reinjuries.

Acute Injuries

An acute injury can vary in severity. They are often the result of a sudden blow or an accidental fall. For a child under the age of 8 and acute injury usually comes in the form of a bruise, cut, scrape connective tissues sprain, or a muscle strain.

Adolescent and young adult acute injuries can be more severe due to the forces involved.

This could include all of the above, plus:

  • Broken bones
  • Torn ligaments
  • Fractured, avulsed, or damaged teeth
  • Lacerations
  • Eye injuries
  • Concussions

Most acute injuries of this magnitude are related to the improper use or lack of proper equipment. Inadequate training on how to perform a particular action safely is also a potential cause of an acute injury. This might be something like how to perform a “Heads Up Tackle” in football, or a softball player sliding into a base in a safe manner (“feet first”.)

Treating Acute Injuries

At The Pediatric Group, we tailor each of our treatment plans to the injury as well as the child’s age. We will also provide you with any self-care methods to practice to help speed recovery or minimize discomfort. In the case of a more severe acute injury, we might refer you to one of the area specialists we work with.

Overuse Injuries

Overuse injuries are typically related to repetitive actions that place too much stress on the bones, joints, connective tissues, and muscles. This type of injury can also occur in adults and older adolescent athletes. However, they are more problematic in young athletes as certain overuse injuries can affect bone, muscle, and connective tissue development.

Some of the more common types of overuse injuries include:

Anterior knee pain or pain under the kneecap. This is usually due to inflammation affecting the tendons, ligaments, or cartilage in the knee. Tightness in the quadriceps and hamstring muscles can increase the chances of suffering this type of overuse injury.

Elbow tendinitis or little league elbow manifests as pain and tenderness in the elbow. With this type of overuse injury the ability to flex and extend the affected arm may be limited.

Shoulder tendinitis or “Swimmer’s Shoulder” is often related to inflammation is the shoulder joint caused by the repeated stress of the overhead motions. It’s most commonly seen in swimmers but can also occur in sports where the ball needs to be thrown overhand. The discomfort typically starts out intermittently and then becomes more common with time and excessive use.

Shin splints typically cause discomfort and pain on the lower front of the legs. This overuse injury is often related to frequent running on hard surfaces

In adolescence, these overuse injuries can be worsened by other factors such as:

A recent growth spurt causing strength or flexibility issues

  • Improper warmup
  • Inadequate stretching
  • Overtraining
  • Overactivity
  • Improper technique
  • Improper equipment
  • Poorly maintained playing surfaces
  • Inadequate rest
  • Chronic dehydration

Treating Overuse Injuries

The Pediatric Group is well-versed in a wide range of overuse injuries, especially those that affect teen athletes. After a thorough examination, we will present you with an effective treatment plan. This might also include recommendations on how to modify certain activities, lifestyle changes, changes in diet, changes in training techniques, and other information to help prevent the problem from recurring.

If necessary, try to encourage your child to recognize that pain and discomfort is their body’s way of telling them there is a problem. If they are continuing to experience symptoms, let them know it is okay to take more time off, or in some cases, to seek additional treatments.

Scar tissue in a joint, the connective tissues or muscle can cause complications with some overuse injuries, even after the original injury has seemingly healed. Attempting to “Play Through The Pain” might lead to reinjury.

Reinjuries

Reinjuries are more common in adolescent athletes, especially those who rush back to full participation after being injured. This places excess stress on the injured area, and forces other parts of the body to compensate, or perform in a way that they are not intended to do.

One example would be a broken bone that has just recently healed. The bone material at the break might be functionally stronger than it was before. However, the surrounding bone tissues may not be able to compensate, leading to a new break on or near the previous break.

Giving an injury the full time needed to heal is essential for preventing reinjuries. In some of these cases, such as scar tissue complications, The Pediatric Group may recommend additional treatments or other techniques for warming up or cooling down.

Even after your child is fully cleared to return to full participation, it can help to encourage them to gradually increase their intensity at practices. Sudden exertion can also be a major factor in reinjuries.