Youth sports in the United States are some of the most popular recreation-related activities for children, teenagers, and their family members who support them along their journey. Nearly 60 million youth athletes participate in some kind of organized team activity or sport that occupies them throughout the year, whether it’s training for the season or playing at full speed.
Take a look at some of the most common youth sports injuries and important tips to help your youth athlete stay injury-free this season with physical therapy.
Millions of youth athletes compete every year in organized team activities and there are also plenty of youth injuries that occur each year. More than 3.5 million youth sports injuries occur every single year. Youth sports injuries can not only sideline young athletes for an extended period of time, but they may even sap the enjoyment out of the activity if the injury is significant enough. Extended periods of inactivity due to an injury or a rehabilitation program might cause the youth athlete to lose interest in the sport as well.
Youth sports injuries are also a leading contributor to emergency room visits every single year. With so many youth sports injuries occurring every year, it’s important for youth athletes, their parents, and the coaching staff to be aware of some of the most common injuries and sports that can contribute to ER visits every year. Take a look at some of the sports with the most youth injuries.
Youth sports injuries can occur in nearly every sport, not just contact-related sports like football or hockey. Injuries can happen year-round as well, not just during the competitive season. For multi-sport athletes who compete year-round or those athletes who stick to one season a year, injuries can occur during practice or in the heat of competition during a live game.
In 2020, the National Safety Council released a study detailing the number of emergency room visits based on the sport or activity. In the report, the sports and activities that contributed most to ER visits were bicycling, skateboarding, basketball, swimming, football, soccer, baseball, skating, horseback riding, lacrosse, volleyball, and hockey.
Youth sports injuries can spring up at a moment’s notice, but there are a few common ones that pop up time and time again. While most youth sports injuries tend to be minor in nature, there are serious ones that may require extensive rehabilitation and recovery. Whether it’s alleviating some of the many common aches and pains that can stem from a routine practice or a more significant injury, physical therapy can be effective in helping athletes of all ages recover from and reduce the likelihood of future injuries.
Some of the top youth sports injuries are ankle injuries, knee pain, elbow pain, ACL tears, broken bones, back injuries, shin splints, concussions, stress fractures, and rotator cuff injuries.
There are many different ways that youth sports injuries may occur, but there are a few common precursors that can make the likelihood of sustaining an injury much higher. Take a look at some of the most common ways that youth sports injuries may occur, and see how youth athletes, parents, and coaches can help mitigate some of the leading signs that an injury may be on the horizon.
Improper use of equipment can lead to many injuries. Using workout equipment, practice equipment, or in-game equipment can lead to an injury at a moment’s notice. Youth athletes, trainers, coaches, and parents should be mindful of the equipment and the instructions for proper use to ensure injuries are at a minimum.
Warmup periods in addition to pre and post-workout stretches play a key role in helping our bodies get prepared for all that will be asked of them in practices and in a live game. An inefficient or lack of a proper warmup means the body isn’t adequately prepared for the strain it’s about to go through when exerting itself during athletic activities.
Many athletes believe that playing surfaces can play a key role in their ability to perform at their best. Research is still ongoing to determine if there is a key link between the likelihood of an injury and the type of surface they play on. Uneven, slick, or shifting surfaces may contribute to an injury if an athlete isn’t careful. Proper footwear and evaluation of the playing surface may help to mitigate playing surface-related injuries.
Our bodies need lots of healthy food and proper nutrition to effectively recover from previous injuries and replenish all of the lost nutrients from practice, workouts, and a game. Inadequate nutrition can cause a loss of muscle mass and may lead to an injury. Coaches, parents, and athletes should encourage and promote healthy eating habits and smarter choices for post-game or practice snacks to get important nutrients to the body early on to promote the healing and recovery process.
Athletes of all ages need an adequate amount of rest to make sure they can properly recover and don’t risk overuse or overexertion of muscles, joints, and other supporting structures. Pushing too far for too long may lead to an injury.
Everyone is born with anatomy and you would be correct in thinking that this can’t change. Some anatomical changes may make athletes more prone to injuries. However, ensuring that your youth athlete has optimal form and technique can reduce the risk of injury.
An imbalance of strength or a poor range of motion for joints may also contribute to youth sports injuries. Improving strength and range of motion can help youth athletes become more accustomed to increased strain and loads during workouts, practices, and live games.
Youth sports injuries are not inevitable, and there are several actions that can be taken to mitigate potential risk for injury and ensure that youth athletes can continue to play the sport they love with minimal disruption.
Participating in an injury prevention program is one of the top ways that youth athletes can reduce the risk of an injury. Research shows that participation in an injury prevention program that includes a combination of flexibility training, proprioception exercises, and strength training can improve modifiable risk factors and effectively reduce the risk of an injury that could sideline your youth athlete.
One of the best things that youth athletes can do is to get treated early for aches and pains they experience. What might seem like a small issue can often develop into a more significant injury if not taken care of early on. Physical therapy is an effective treatment option for athletes of all ages and can help improve function, alleviate pain, and teach good habits for youth athletes who are looking to improve their technique and form.
Another method to help alleviate youth sports injuries that parents and coaches can do is to promote safe habits for their young athletes. Encouraging youth athletes to check all the boxes and do their part to practice and play properly can help to significantly reduce youth sports injuries. Talk to them about the importance of proper nutrition, effective warm-up and warm-down periods, and listening to their body as they play, practice, and workout.
The next tip for helping young athletes avoid injuries is to be vigilant and monitor developing athletes. Look for signs of fatigue, injury, or overexertion, and don’t be afraid to step in when it seems like the athlete needs to take a break.
Physical therapy can be an effective treatment option for young athletes and our licensed and trained physical therapists treat over 100 other conditions as well. Physical therapy can be a great resource for young and developing athletes who are looking to improve function, alleviate pain, improve athletic performance, and receive vital education about how to train, practice, and play properly to reduce the likelihood of future injuries.
Schedule an appointment today at a nearby physical therapy clinic to see how physical therapy can help alleviate pain, improve mobility, and restore function for over 100 conditions, including youth sports injuries!