Dr. Nikesh Seth and the Integrated Pain Consultants team start to see an increase in youth sports injuries this time of year, but did you know that most of these injuries are preventable according to the Centers for Disease Control? It’s unfortunately common for some coaches and parents to push children past their limits, assuming that kids and teens are more resilient than adults. However, over 3.5 million children 13 and younger are treated for sports injuries every year. Clearly, “toughing it out” is rarely the best solution when an athlete is injured during a game or practice.
Of those injuries, high school athletes make up the majority at 2 million injuries per year. That’s 500,000 visits to the doctor and 30,000 hospitalizations annually. However, younger athletes are sustaining serious injuries as well. Children between the ages of 5 and 14 make up 40 percent of hospitalizations related to sports. Still, the severity and number of injuries goes up with a child’s age. In the past 18 years, serious elbow and shoulder injuries in youth softball and baseball players has increased five times over. What are we doing wrong?
One issue is that, even though 62 percent of sports injuries happen during practice, 33 percent of parents admit they don’t make their children follow the same safety precautions during practice as they do during a game.
There are acute and chronic injuries related to sports. Acute injuries are sudden and might be a torn muscle or a broken bone. Chronic injuries are overuse injuries caused by repetitive motion (such as poor technique). Many young athletes specialize in just one sport and train throughout the year, which increases the odds of a chronic injury. That’s why cross-training is so important.
The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents and coaches to keep injuries in check by having children take time off. They should have at least one rest day per week and one rest month per year (per sport). Always wear the right protective equipment and prioritize muscle strength and flexibility. Adult supervision, not playing through pain, and steering clear of heat-related injuries are also a must.