Sports injuries in young children

Definition

Each year in the United States, about 40 million children and adolescents between the ages of 5-17 participate in organized sports. Of this young group, there are 4.3 million injuries related to sports and recreational activities.

Overall, almost one-third¬¬ of all injuries experienced in childhood are sports-related. By far, the most common injuries are sprains (injuries to ligaments), strains (injuries to muscles) and stress fractures (injuries to bones).

In the event your child does suffer this type of injury, they will be in the hands of our well-respected physicians in the Shriners Center of Excellence at UF Health, nationally recognized for its performance in pediatric orthopaedic care.

Which activities pose greatest harm?

The most common injuries among children tend to occur in high-contact sports that involve actions like jumping, sprinting or pivoting — football, basketball, soccer, etc.

These sports, among others, pose a high risk of a body part being misused, but overuse contributes to the majority of children’s sports-related injuries. Therefore, sports like baseball, bicycling and swimming also have a high incidence due to their repetitive nature.

Here’s a breakdown of various sports and their association to injuries among children based on 2015 data from the National Safety Council. These statistics reflect children ages 5-14 who were treated in hospital emergency rooms.

Football: 204,795
Basketball: 172,998
Bicycling: 147,916
Soccer: 104,167
Swimming: 79,312
Trampolines: 68,323
Baseball: 61,215
Skateboarding: 40,488
Exercise: 36,947
Softball: 31,311
In-line and roller skating: 30,586
Gymnastics: 27,657

It’s important to note that all sports have a potential for injury, whether it’s caused by trauma from contact or from overuse or misuse of a body part. Furthermore, most of the injuries in organized sports actually occur during practice.

Tips to prevent injuries

While injuries are impossible to avoid completely, there are several ways to lessen the risk of injury. Many of these require discipline, which places responsibility on caregivers and coaches to emphasize them to children who may be focused on fun or competition.

  • Take time off
  • Strengthen muscles
  • Increase flexibility with stretching
  • Do not play through pain
  • Wear the right gear
  • Use proper technique for that sport
  • Play safely within the rules
  • Take breaks during practice and games
  • Avoid heat illness

Treatment

Children can experience injuries of any sort while playing sports, but there are a few measures that can be widely applied to injuries that may happen on the field, hardwood, diamond, in the pool or otherwise.

Firstly, the injured area shouldn’t be moved, or at least as little as possible, until a physician gets the opportunity to take a look at it. Braces, crutches and other similar tools can help provide stability.

Ice is essential for most sports-related injuries, helping to decrease pain and swelling in the affected area. Crushed or cubed ice (or frozen peas or corn) can be applied 15-20 minutes at a time to achieve the best results.

Another way to reduce swelling is by compression, whether that’s done with a wrap or compression sock. When wrapping, start below the injured area and wrap upward, leaving fingers or toes exposed. You can also get the swelling down by elevating the injured area higher than the heart.

Review Date
XX/XX/2020

Reviewed By
Dr. Laurel Blakemore, MD, Division Chief, Pediatric Orthopaedics.