In 2014, nonprofit advocacy group Safe Kids Worldwide, an affiliate of Children’s National Health System, released a study of youth sports injuries. The group surveyed 1,000 young athletes, 1,005 coaches, and 1,000 parents, finding that 90 percent of the athletes reported being hurt while playing a sport. While most of the reported injuries were minor such as bumps and bruises, 37 percent of the injuries involved sprains or strains, 24 percent dehydration, 13 percent broken bones, 12 percent concussions or head injuries and 4 percent a torn ligament injury, according to the report.

Some of the most common injuries (acute and overuse) include anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, tears; meniscus tear, a common knee injury; shoulder dislocations; ankle sprains; and Osgood-Schlatter disease, an inflammation of the bumpy part of the upper shinbone called the anterior tibial tubercle.

The good news is that the following tips can help your kids avoid injury:

  • Be physically fit
  • Know and abide by the rules of the sport
  • Wear appropriate protective gear
  • Know how to correctly use athletic equipment
  • Warm up before playing
  • Stay hydrated
  • Avoid playing when very tired or in pain

Some young athletes continue to play even if they’re hurt because they do not want to feel humiliated if they leave the game, and they also want to keep up with their teammates. They might also be worried that stepping away from the game adversely affects their position on the team, or that they’re letting down the coach and their parents. But it’s important for kids to remember that if they start feeling fatigued or are in pain, they need to take themselves out of the game.

With injury prevention, it is important to have parents, coaches and players all aware of every athlete’s individual limits and make sure that no one is surpassing that through extra-long gameplay and practice while hurt.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Suzanne Jaffe Walters, MD, is trained in both sports medicine and pediatric orthopedics surgery and has more than a decade of experience caring for a variety of athletes. She is a member of the esteemed ROCK (Research in Osteochondritis of the Knee) study group and has particular interest in treating osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) lesions of the knee.

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