Now that the spring season is officially underway, many of our kids look forward to getting back outdoors to play sports. This might mean recreational games around the neighborhood, school teams or traveling youth leagues. Sports are a great way for kids to learn about teamwork and cooperation, build self-esteem, and stay well by maintaining a healthy weight, but many parents may be concerned that their children are putting themselves at risk, especially in sports with notoriously high injury rates.

Contrary to popular belief, contact sports, such as football, actually have lower rates of injury in youth, likely due to the slower speed of the game and less impact, as players are not typically as strong or developed as teenage and adult players.

Many of the injuries that do occur in active youth are due to the overuse of certain parts of the body. The Journal of American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery reports a 10-fold increase in elbow surgery over the last decade for young pitchers in baseball due to overuse injuries.

Dislocations are also possible and often occur with a tendon or muscle injury. Shoulder dislocation is the most frequent type, and contact sports are a primary cause. Males ages 10 to 20 have the highest rate of shoulder dislocation, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

Here are some other interesting numbers on the annual injury rates in youth sports in the United States reported by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in 2013:

  • 881,700 football injuries
  • 434,000 soccer injuries
  • 99,884 cheerleading injuries
  • 94,000 volleyball related injuries

Although injury is a possibility for your child, it should not scare you away from allowing them to play on sports teams. Proper training and management can help to prevent injuries and keep sports fun. Some tips include:

  • Strength train and stretch – these are just as important as conditioning and will help to prevent overuse injuries.
  • If an athlete waits until they are thirsty to drink fluids, they are already dehydrated. Muscles need water to function properly, and dehydration can be especially dangerous on humid or hot days.
  • Never play through the pain. Seek medical advice before an injury becomes chronic or requires surgery.
  • Beware of playing on multiple teams in the same sport in the same season. This can quickly lead to an overuse injury, especially for athletes who throw.

Also consider a pre-season physical, especially if there are still any nagging aches or pains from the previous season, and encourage your child to utilize a team trainer or doctor if they are experiencing any issues. Most importantly, remember that sports are supposed to be fun. Pushing too hard can take all the joy out of it.

Note to health care providers:  To coordinate the transfer of patients to the Smith Level I Shock Trauma Center at Eskenazi Health or the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center at Eskenazi Health, please call 1.800.4.TRAUMA (1.800.487.2862). For more information about Eskenazi Health, please visit www.EskenaziHealth.edu. If you are interested in maintaining a Patient Transfer Agreement with Eskenazi Health, please call Anna Kirkman, JD, at 317.880.4812.