Injuries in Youth Sports

It is not uncommon for an occasional bump or bruise when kids play sports, but last year more than 1.35 million young athletes had sports-related injuries that were severe enough to send them to hospital emergency rooms, at a cost of more than $900 million. That equates to 1 youth sports related emergency room visit every 25 seconds! And that figure only includes emergency room visits. Parents additionally take their children to urgent care centers, pediatrician doctor’s offices, and sports medicine clinics in the event of sports related injuries.  Since injuries are never planned, it is helpful to educate and prepare oneself in advance should an injury occur.

Last year, the most common youth sports injuries included sprains and strains, fractures, contusions, abrasions and concussions.  The body parts most affected were the ankle (15%), head (14%), finger (12%), knee (9%) and face (7%). Football resulted in both the highest number of all pediatric injuries (394,350) and the highest concussion rate (40 per 10,000 athletes). Wrestling and cheerleading had the second and third highest concussion rates (15 per 10,000 athletes and 12 per 10,000 athletes, respectively).

Many youth sports injuries are unforeseen traumas that occur during a game or practice through physical contact, with another person, the ground, or an inanimate object. But there are a good number of youth sports injuries that are caused by overuse. Overuse injuries to joints, bones and tendons are a result of athletes playing the same sport and performing the same movement too often, too hard, or with too little recovery time. To give you an idea of how much is too much, a recent report suggested that children should only play a single sport the same number of hours a week as their age (i.e. a 10 year old should play a maximum of 10 hours of soccer a week). When that “weekly hours played” number increases above an athlete’s age, then the likelihood of a serious overuse injury increase by 70%.

There are some things that can be done to lessen the likelihood of sports related injuries. They include letting the body have adequate rest, and adding preventative and strengthening exercises. Most secondary schools in the area have Certified Athletic Trainers who can assist coaches with these types of preventative and strengthening exercises, as well as providing treatment for minor injuries to prevent them from becoming serious injuries. Additionally many local athletic departments and coaches are instituting injury protocols and return to play procedures to ensure that timely injury assessments are occurring, and proper follow-up happens to make sure athletes are fully healed and healthy before returning to play.

Whether an injury occurs as a result of trauma or overuse, parents of an athlete should be educated and prepared to act. I suggest creating an Injury Action Plan, listing the names and contact details of local emergency and urgent care facilities, primary doctors, and specialists. Doing the research and having this information prepared in advance takes the guesswork out of the decision making process when under the inevitable pressure and stress that accompanies an injury event.  Who do I call first if my child has sprained his ankle? Should I go to the doctor now or wait until the morning to see if the pain has subsided? Is it better to go to an urgent care facility or an emergency room? These are all typical questions that parents ask  when an injury occurs.

We encourage people to attend the Sports Injury Symposium “Injury Action Plan for Parents of an Athlete” on March 7th at 7pm in the Pleasantville High School Auditorium. There will be a panel of healthcare experts, including an orthopedic surgeon, sports medicine specialist, sports psychologist, pediatrician, physical therapist, and certified athletic trainer. They will be discussing a variety of topics surrounding youth sports injuries, encouraging parents to create an Injury Action Plan, and also answering questions from the audience. It looks to be a great event and one that will help parents better understand the injury process and be prepared should an injury occur. We look forward to seeing you there.

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