You can’t welcome fall without welcoming fall sports. And autumn is a time of youth and growth, especially for children! Getting kids involved in sports has many benefits, including keeping them fit and active. However, there is always the risk of injury.
Dr. Zachary Stinson, MD, who works in the Department of Orthopedics at Nemours Children’s Health offers both surgical and non-surgical treatment options for injured young athletes.
Here, he provides insight into common injuries to look out for, how to prevent them and the signs that you should seek medical attention.
Common Sports Injuries According to Dr. Stinson:
- For teenage soccer players, the most common injury is an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear.
- Elbows are most often injured in gymnasts. Gymnasts can also have growth plate injuries under the wrist, called “gymnast’s wrist.”
- Adolescent female distance runners are at risk for stress-related bone injuries, and this is especially true for underweight athletes who may be at risk for a condition called relative energy deficiency in sports (RED-S).
- Male basketball players in their early teens are prone to inflammation of the patellar tendon to the knee called apophysitis. It can also lead to a severe traumatic fracture of the patellar tendon’s attachment to the tibia, called a tibial tuberosity fracture. The most common injury for all basketball players, male and female, is the sprained ankle. However, in young athletes with exposed growth plates, a “sprained” ankle results in an injury that affects the growth plate at the end of the fibula or outer ball of the ankle. We also call these lateral ankle injuries.
- Baseball players most often experience pain in the shoulder or elbow. In young players, especially pitchers, it is due to inflammation of the growth plate. In older players, this can lead to changes in bone structure that have long-term consequences.
- Soccer players who tackle the ball are at significant risk of injury, and there are several types of injuries that soccer players commonly experience. This includes ACL tears, arm and leg fractures, concussions and shoulder dislocations.
“I would like to tell parents that while it is impossible to eliminate the risk of injury, there are some proven methods that significantly reduce the risk of injury in youth sports,” says Dr. Stinson.
Some of these methods include:
- Use of specialized training to prevent ACL injuries, especially for soccer players.
- Overview of pitching guidelines for youth baseball pitchers that vary by age.
- Throwing athletes are routinely asked if their shoulder or elbow hurts, and a player should never be allowed to continue playing through such pain.
- Avoiding early sports specialization. This is defined as playing any one sport for 8 months or more over a year.
It is important to note that some sports have a much higher risk of injury than others.
“For example, playing soccer or motocross has a high risk of serious injuries that are difficult to avoid despite all safety and injury prevention efforts,” says Dr. Stinson. “Sports such as golf, tennis, swimming and water polo have a very low risk of injury, especially if overtraining is avoided.”
If you need to see a doctor:
“If a child cannot fully bend or flex joints such as wrists, elbows, knees or ankles, or if they cannot put full weight on the injured leg, then these are definite indications to seek appropriate medical attention. ,” says Dr. Stinson.
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