& Amateur Sports Injuries
day, millions of amateurs in the United States participate
in sports activities, from soccer and football fields to baseball
diamonds and ice rinks.
called playing, but sports activities are more than play.
For youth, participation in athletics improves physical fitness,
coordination, and self-discipline, and gives them valuable
opportunities to learn teamwork.
sports activities can also result in injuries - some minor,
some serious, and still others resulting in lifelong medical
year, more than 3.5 million sports-related injuries in youth
under age 15 are treated in hospitals, doctors' offices, clinics,
ambulatory surgery centers and hospital emergency rooms in
the United States, according to the Consumer Product Safety
Commission. Over 1 million of those injuries result from football
and basketball alone.
athletes are not merely small adults. Their bones, muscles,
tendons, and ligaments are still growing, which makes them
more susceptible to injury.
plates - the areas of developing cartilage where bone growth
occurs in youngsters - are weaker than the nearby ligaments
and tendons. What is often a bruise or sprain in an adult
can be a potentially serious growth plate injury in a young
athletes of the same age can differ greatly in size and physical
maturity. Some youngsters may be physically less mature than
their peers and try to perform at levels for which they are
and athletic coaches should try to group youngsters according
to skill level and size, not chronological age, particularly
during contact sports. If this is not practical, they should
modify the sport to accommodate the needs of children with
varying skill levels.
among young athletes fall into two basic categories: overuse
injuries and acute injuries. Both types include injuries to
the soft tissues (muscles and ligaments) and bones.
injuries are caused by a sudden trauma. Common acute injuries
among young athletes include contusions (bruises), sprains
(a partial or complete tear of a ligament), strains (a partial
or complete tear of a muscle or tendon) and fractures. But
not all injuries are caused by a single, sudden twist, fall,
or collision. A series of small injuries to immature bodies
can cause minor fractures, minimal muscle tears, or progressive
bone deformities, known as overuse injuries.
an example, "Little League Elbow" is the term used
to describe a group of common overuse injuries in young throwers
involved in many sports, not just baseball. Other common overuse
injuries occur in the heels and knees with tears in the tissue
where tendons attach to the leg bone or the heel bone.
sports have inherent dangers that put young athletes at special
risk for severe injuries. Even with rigorous training and
proper safety equipment, youngsters are at risk for severe
injuries to the neck, spinal cord, and growth plates. However,
following the rules of the game and using proper equipment
can decrease these risks.
and teens often experience some discomfort with athletic activity.
Their bones and muscles are growing, and their level of physical
activity may increase with a sudden, intense interest in sports,
so some aches and pains can be expected. Still, their complaints
always deserve careful attention. Some injuries, if left untreated,
can cause permanent damage and interfere with proper physical
an injury is acute or due to overuse, a child who develops
a symptom that persists or that affects his or her athletic
performance should be examined by a physician. A child should
never be allowed or expected to "work through the pain."
that warrant a visit to the doctor include:
to play following an acute or sudden injury.
ability to play because of chronic or long-term complications
following an injury.
deformity of the athlete's arms or legs.
pain from acute injuries which prevent the use of an arm
treatment can often prevent a minor injury from becoming worse
or causing permanent damage. The basic treatment for many
simple injuries is often "R.I.C.E." Rest - Ice -
Compression - Elevation.
Treatment for a child with any significant injury will usually
involve specific recommendations for temporary or permanent
adjustment in athletic activity. Depending on the injury's
severity, treatment may range from simple observation with
minor changes in athletic level to a recommendation that the
athletic activity be discontinued. Some combination of physical
therapy, strengthening exercises, and bracing may also be
Guidelines for Preventing Sports Injuries:
in proper physical condition to play a sport.
and abide by the rules of the sport.
appropriate protective gear (for example, shin guards
for soccer, a hard-shell helmet when facing a baseball
pitcher, a helmet and body padding for ice hockey).
how to use athletic equipment (for example, correctly
adjusting the straps on football helmets).
warm up before playing.
playing when very tired or in pain.
athletes need proper training for sports. They should be encouraged
to train for the sport rather than expecting the sport itself
to get them into shape. Many injuries can be prevented if
youths follow a regular conditioning program with incorporated
exercises designed specifically for their chosen sport. A
well-structured, closely supervised weight-training regimen
may modestly help youngsters prepare for athletic activities.
Young athletes should have their coaches help them design
a conditioning program suited to their needs.
should make sure their child's coaches have the appropriate
qualifications to supervise a particular sport, provide well-maintained
safety equipment, and help with proper conditioning for that
sports should always be fun. The "win at all costs"
attitude of many parents, coaches, professional athletes,
and peers can lead to injuries. A young athlete striving to
meet the unrealistic expectations of others may ignore the
warning signs of injury and continue to play with pain.
and parents can prevent injuries by fostering an atmosphere
of healthy competition that emphasizes self-reliance, confidence,
cooperation, and a positive self-image, rather than just winning.
insure all youth sports activities, either on a per event,
per team/league, or per season basis. See our sports
section for details.