Sports Injury Risks
All sports have a risk of injury. In general, the more contact in a sport, the greater the risk of injury.
Most injuries occur to ligaments (connect bones together), tendons (connect muscles to bones) and muscles. Only about 5 percent of sports injuries involve broken bones. However, the areas where bones grow in children (aka growth plates) are at more risk of injury during the rapid phases of growth. In a growing child, point tenderness over a bone should be evaluated further by a medical provider even if there is minimal swelling or limitation in motion.
Most frequent sports injuries are sprains (injuries to ligaments), strains (injuries to muscles), or contusions (muscle bruises from direct trauma). These injuries are usually caused when an abnormal stress is placed on tendons, joints, bones and/or muscle.
Most injuries in young athletes overuse injuries –injuries to bones, muscles, tendons or ligaments caused by repetitive stress without allowing sufficient time to heal. Therefore, injury prevention focuses on overuse avoiding overuse.
Injury Risk Reduction
Time off. Plan to have at least 1 day off per week from a particular sport to allow the body to recover. Plan to have at least 2-3 months off per year from a specific sport (time off does not need to be consecutive).
Stop the activity if there is pain & take breaks. Rest periods during practice and games can reduce injuries and prevent heat illness.
Avoid specializing in one sport before puberty. “Cross-training” helps with flexibility and strength.
Strengthen muscles. Conditioning exercises before games and during practice strengthens muscles used in play.
Increase flexibility. Stretching exercises before and after games or practice can increase flexibility.
Use the proper technique. This should be reinforced during the playing season.
Wear the right gear. Players should wear appropriate and properly fit protective equipment such as pads (neck, shoulder, elbow, chest, knee, shin), helmets, mouthpieces, face guards, protective cups, and/or eyewear. Young athletes should not assume that protective gear will protect them from performing more dangerous or risky activities.
Play safe. Strict rules against headfirst sliding (baseball and softball), spearing (football), and body checking (ice hockey) should be enforced.
Avoid heat injury by drinking plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise or play; decrease or stop practices or competitions during high heat/humidity periods; wear light clothing.
Minimize full contact practices in collision sports. Recent concussion data indicate that minimizing total cumulative number of collisions in a sports season may lower the chances of incurring brain injury.