Youth Sports Safety

High school quarterback in yellow jersey getting ready to throw a football.

How to Prevent Sports Injuries in Child and Teen Athletes

The safety of sports programs for child and teen athletes is an ongoing concern. It’s clear that kids should be free to have fun and explore their athletic potential to its fullest extent. When the participants enjoy sports, memories are made, championships earned, and important lessons are learned.

At the same time, parents, youth sports league leadership, coaches, teachers, and the athletes themselves all have a vested interest in minimizing injuries. The question is whether those who are involved can maximize enjoyment and competitiveness while minimizing the number and severity of injuries to athletes.

The Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) debate is a prime example of the challenge at hand. According to the AMA Journal of Ethics, “CTE is a progressive neurodegenerative condition associated with neuropsychiatric symptoms, behavioral changes, and cognitive deficits.” There’s concern that young football players and other athletes who suffer mild or traumatic concussions will go on to suffer from CTE.

The AMA Journal of Ethics notes that there is not enough evidence yet to prove a causal link between sports-related concussions in youth and the development of CTE. Still, it’s worth asking whether coaches, parents, and teachers should at least discuss CTE and the potential dangers of contact sports with young athletes.

Many people would argue that the benefits of youth sports outweigh the risks. Those who decide to pursue their online Master of Arts Degree in Athletic Leadership will be on the frontlines of the debate, helping kids reap the benefits and stay safe as the future of youth athletics unfolds.

Benefits of Youth Sports

There is a reason why the gut is referred to as the second brain. Our gastrointestinal tract is lined with 100 million nerve cells and releases hormones that influence everything from when we are hungry to feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. In other words, our guts heavily impact the way our brains think, how we feel, and our general well-being.

There are many potential physical and mental benefits of sports for adolescents. Parents recognize these benefits intuitively, oftentimes because they participated in sports when they were kids. For their part, coaches work hard to help kids get the most out of sports. Coaches who specialize in sports psychology are particularly well-prepared to augment the mental edge athletes can gain from their experience. This mental edge enables success for youth on and off the field.

Learning Leadership Skills

Kids learn leadership skills by watching others and mirroring leadership skills in their own interactions. A potential leader has ample opportunity to watch leadership in action as they observe coaches striving to bring out the best in a team. Good coaches are effective leaders; a good coach honors sportsmanship and looks for natural leaders. Any child who is a natural leader, or aspires to be a leader, can hone their leadership skills on a sports team.

Practicing Teamwork

Learning how to cooperate with a team is one of the most salient benefits of youth sports. Win or lose, there’s joy in teamwork, and the ability to do your best as part of a team is something you take with you for the rest of your life. This benefits kids when they become adults in a world where teamwork is essential.

Consistent Exercise

A study found that sports promote healthy weight in teens. The importance of exercise can’t be stressed enough at a time when nearly 20% of school-age adolescents are obese. The consistent exercise that kids get through sports can help ward off childhood obesity. Additionally, it can instill healthy exercise habits in adolescents — habits they may retain into adulthood.

Developing Relationships

Sports can be a relationship-building exercise for young athletes. The camaraderie between kids on a team contributes to a bond they take with them off the court. It’s not uncommon for a child’s best friend to be on their team because the sports atmosphere is conducive to friendship.

Building Self-Esteem

As kids learn to immerse themselves in the game, they learn focus, strategy, and persistence. This can help kids build self-confidence as they note the way their contribution to a team effort makes a difference in the outcome of the game.

Youth Sports Injury Statistics

Just as they do in any physical activity, injuries happen in youth sports. The following statistics provide a closer look:

  • According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), basketball accounted for the most injuries to kids in the 5 to 14 age group in 2017, at nearly 182,000; the second most dangerous sport for that age group was football, with nearly 172,000 injuries.
  • According to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM), high school athletes rack up about 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits, and 30,000 hospitalizations every year.
  • Over 3.5 million kids under 14 are treated for sports-related injuries yearly, and kids ages 5 to 14 account for about 40% of hospitalizations.
  • Even though 62% of injuries happen during practice, about one-third of parents don’t require their kids to take the same safety precautions as they do for games.
  • Over 50% of sports injuries to kids are preventable.

Since many sports injuries are preventable, it’s important to understand injury prevention methods and the different types of injuries that may occur in different sports.

General Sports Injury Prevention Methods

In general, injury prevention isn’t at the top of a kid’s list when they sign up for a sport. Adolescent athletes typically don’t think a lot about the possibility of getting hurt during practice or a game. It’s up to parents, coaches, and team leaders to help child athletes stay safe by teaching them to take the proper precautions. This minimizes preventable injuries, meaning the child can continue participating in and enjoying sports.

Wear Protective Gear

How many times is a child athlete injured because they’re not wearing protective gear? Or, how many times do they wear protective equipment but it fails them? Athletic administrators and coaches must provide protective equipment and ensure that it’s in good shape and properly fitted to each child. This gear wears down over time, and it’s never one-size-fits-all. Double-check the condition of pads, helmets, goggles, and any other protective accoutrements; make sure all kids have equipment that fits them properly.

Take A Rest

According to the AOSSM study linked above, nearly half of sports injuries happen because of overuse. Rest can mitigate or even prevent the possibility of overuse. Rest gives the young athlete time to drink water and stay hydrated, which is extremely important for preventing cramps and allows the athlete’s body to function properly. Rest minimizes fatigue and stress levels that may also contribute to injuries.

Stretch and Strengthen Muscles

Stretching warms up muscles and connective tissue, allowing an athlete to perform at their peak. Without stretching, young athletes are more likely to strain themselves. Additionally, coaches and parents must help kids get in good shape through appropriate strength training. It stands to reason that a fit athlete is less likely to get injured, but young athletes shouldn’t overdo it — according to the III, kids ages 5 to 14 suffered nearly 55,000 injuries exercising and using exercise equipment.

Know the Rules of the Game

More often than not, playing by the rules means avoiding the type of overly aggressive play that can result in injury. Coaches and parents should praise kids who know the rules and play by them, and coaches would do well to promote the player who excels at competing within the boundaries to the position of team captain.

It’s also important for coaches and parents to understand the appropriate level of competitiveness for each stage of the game. For example, pushing a child to be highly competitive in tee-ball is not healthy. Overall, coaches and parents should examine the mindset they’re encouraging. According to the AOSSM, “By age 13, 70% of kids drop out of youth sports. The top three reasons: adults, coaches and parents.” Youth sports are about education and fun. Pushing an overly competitive mindset on kids can not only contribute to injuries, but it can also dissuade them from continuing to play.

Don’t Play When Injured

A pre-existing injury, no matter how minor, puts an athlete at risk of exacerbating the injury or sustaining another. It can be tough to bench a star athlete with a sprained ankle. However, it’s better for that athlete to walk it off than it is for them to risk a more severe injury.

Injury Rates by Sport and Prevention Resources

Naturally, some youth sports are riskier than others. For example, football, hockey, and lacrosse are high-contact sports and concussions are common. Snowboarders are also prone to concussions. Coaches can make a big difference by being aware of how likely their players are to suffer certain kinds of injuries. With this knowledge in hand, coaches can train kids to play in such a way as to minimize risky behavior and maximize outcomes.

Baseball and Softball

Overview

Nearly 25 million kids played baseball or softball in 2018, which was an increase of nearly 14% from 2013. From tee-ball to little league, kids can play baseball throughout their primary and secondary school years. Baseball and softball help individual players develop psychological fortitude and focus, as well as team spirit.

Common Baseball and Softball Injuries

According to the AOSSM, 20% of baseball players ages 8 to 12 and 45% of those ages 13 to 14 will suffer arm pain during a single season. Arm pain can be a precursor to overuse injuries. The shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand are all at risk of overuse.

Overuse and acute (traumatic) injuries are the most common in softball and baseball. When it comes to overuse, players can develop tendonitis of the shoulder, elbow, forearm, and wrist. Overuse of the shoulder can also cause torn rotator cuffs and shoulder instability. Elbow overuse contributes to ulnar collateral ligament injuries for pitchers, as well as “little league elbow” and tennis elbow. Back pain can affect catchers due to their stance, and herniated disks can be the result of a fall or continual straining of the spine.

When it comes to trauma, players can suffer shoulder separations, bursitis of the elbow, wrist sprains, finger fractures, as well as tears in knee ligaments and cartilage. Players can easily tear their meniscus due to sudden, jarring impact when they’re sliding. Sliding can also cause leg, foot, and toe fractures.

To recognize overuse, watch for movements that indicate pain, such as a player wincing when they throw the ball or favoring one leg over another. Pay attention to player complaints. Acute injuries will be obvious when they happen. To treat overuse, have the player rest. Ice the affected area to reduce pain and swelling. The player can take ibuprofen if they’re not allergic. Gentle stretches will help the player recuperate. While you can catch overuse early and avoid a doctor visit, acute injuries will require medical attention. For overuse, seek medical attention if the pain lasts longer than 48 hours. A player who must rest due to overuse will need physical therapy to get full use back after the rest period is over

Baseball and Softball Injury Prevention

Take the following steps to prevent baseball and softball injuries:

  • Have players warm their arms up properly before playing;
  • Have players participate in preseason and in-season strength and conditioning programs;
  • Advise players to avoid playing year-round and to play other sports to maintain core fitness;

Additionally, follow the general sports injury prevention methods recommended above.

Additional Resources for Baseball and Softball

Take a look at these helpful sites and articles for more information:

Little League: Includes resources for parents, coaches, umpires, district officers, and league officials;

Injury Prevention in Baseball: from Youth to the Pros: Includes information on newer stretching and exercise protocols;

Baseball and Softball Injuries: The sports medicine report detailing common injuries, their causes, and treatment recommendations;

Basketball

Overview

In 2016, nearly 8 million kids played basketball as core participants, meaning they played 13 or more times that year. That number marked a 3.7% decline from 2013. Kids can play basketball throughout their primary and secondary school years. Basketball helps kids develop communication and cooperation skills, as well as coordination and physical stamina. Overall, girls have a higher incident rate than boys.

Common Basketball Injuries

As mentioned earlier, basketball had the highest rate of injury for any of the organized sports in 2017. As opposed to baseball, acute injuries are more common than chronic injuries in basketball. The most common types of injuries in basketball are strains and sprains. Specifically, some common injuries in youth basketball include:

  • Sever’s disease: Inflammation in the growth plate of the heel bone causing heel pain. Recognizing Sever’s disease early on can be tough because — unlike the majority of basketball injuries — it develops slowly over time. Look for signs of heel pain whenever the player is running and jumping. The player may develop a limp while walking. Rest, ice, and supportive shoes with sole inserts are the primary means of treatment for Sever’s disease. Stretching and strengthening exercises can help the youth rehabilitate.
  • Ankle sprains: In particular, lateral ankle sprains, which occur when the foot rolls inward. When it comes to sprains and ACL tears, they’re easy to recognize when they happen because of immediate and acute pain. The signs of an ACL tear are sudden pain in the knee, a popping sound when the injury occurs, swelling, limited movement, and instability. The sure sign of a sprain is immediate pain, limping, and swelling. You can treat ankle sprains with RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. During rehabilitation, have the player do balance exercises to regain strength — these exercises are also key to prevention.
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tears: The ACL connects the femur to the tibia; ACL tears aren’t as common as sprains, but about 20% of athletes who tear their ACL don’t return to basketball. Surgery and extensive rehab are the only means of treating ACL tears. The player should not be allowed to return to play until after surgery and rehab.
  • Concussions: For an unknown reason, female basketball players suffer concussions 240% more than male players. A concussion can be minor and harder to spot. The symptoms of a concussion include headache or pressure in the head, nausea, vomiting, issues with balance and dizziness, as well as grogginess, sluggishness, and a dazed demeanor. For concussions, youth athletes should seek immediate medical evaluation. After that, a regimen of low-level aerobic exercise, balance training, vestibular rehab, and neck strengthening are recommended.

Basketball Injury Prevention

To prevent Sever’s disease, have athletes do exercises to improve calf flexibility, balance, hip strength and landing mechanics.

To prevent sprains, have players do balance exercises. Players who are prone to sprains can wear lace-up ankle braces.

Although ACL tears are acute, doctors attribute them to overuse; in other words, players should refrain from playing basketball year-round. To prevent ACL tears, have athletes do neuromuscular training, which can reduce risk by as much as 72%.

To prevent concussions in basketball, promote safe play. Teach basketball players to follow the rules. Make sure the court is free of tripping hazards and update padding on hoop posts regularly.

Additional Resources for Basketball

Take a look at these helpful sites and articles for more information:

Sports Mom Survival Guide: How To Prevent Youth Basketball Injuries: A good reference for concerned parents;

USA Basketball

Includes information on coaching youth basketball.

Bowling

Overview

In 2015, 19 million youths ages 6 to 17 bowled at least once during the year. Bowling leagues have been in decline — only 148,204 youths participated in a bowling league during the 2014 to 2015 season, representing a 6% to 8% decline. However, due to a “bowling curriculum” in schools, there’s been a 17% increase in the number of kids under 14 who bowl. Additionally, over 5,000 high schools have bowling teams, with participation from about 53,000 male and female high schoolers in the 2013-2014 season.

Common Bowling Injuries

Bowling is nowhere near the list of high-risk sports. Nevertheless, over 20,000 people go to the hospital yearly for injuries incurred at bowling alleys. Some of the most common bowling injuries include:

  • Rotator cuff tears: The rotator cuff is a tendon that attaches the humerus (upper arm bone) to the shoulder blade;
  • Finger and thumb sprains;
  • Bowler’s thumb: Friction from the thumb’s position in the ball affects a nerve in the thumb;
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: Repeated pressure on the median nerve from the forearm affects the passageway of ligament and bones at the base of the hand;
  • Lower back strain, resulting in herniated discs: Discs that provide cushioning for the bones in the spine get displaced and sometimes rupture;
  • Knee and ankle sprains and ligament injuries;

Besides the sprains and bowler’s thumb, these injuries are mostly associated with overuse. Rotator cuff tears can be acute due to a fall or an instance when a youth tries to throw a ball that’s too heavy. The tear causes pain when the sufferer is trying to sleep on the affected shoulder. You’ll notice they’re feeling pain and weakness when lifting or lowering the affected arm. A young bowler with a rotator cuff tear should rest, take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers if they’re not allergic, and do strengthening exercises. They should see a doctor to see how bad the tear is.

A young bowler with a sprain should follow the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) regimen as described in the basketball injuries section of this guide.

If a youth is trying to spin the ball and keeps their thumb in the hole for an extended amount of time, they may get Bowler’s Thumb. The sufferer will experience pain and tenderness in the thumb that may be accompanied by a burning or prickling sensation called paresthesia. A young bowler with Bowler’s Thumb should rest and avoid bowling for a while.

The young bowler with carpal tunnel syndrome will experience burning, tingling, or itching numbness in their palm and fingers. The sufferer may want to “shake out” the affected hand. If it gets worse, the youth may have trouble gripping objects. Advise the sufferer to seek medical treatment; they’ll probably need to wear a splint at night and avoid daytime activities that provoke symptoms.

A young bowler with a herniated disc will experience back pain if the disc is pressing on a nerve. Leading up to the rupture, the youth may experience occasional, mild back pain. The youth should seek medical attention to see how bad it is, and limit activities for 2 to 3 days. Doctors don’t recommend bed rest for herniated discs. As much walking as the youth can stand is a good idea. They’ll need to see a spine specialist if symptoms persist longer than four weeks.

Bowling Injury Prevention

Slips and falls do happen, and young bowlers should wear the right shoes to prevent sprains and ligament injuries. The ball shouldn’t be too heavy — bowlers twelve and under should try lifting a ball that is the same weight as their age, and use a lighter ball if they have trouble. Young bowlers should avoid trying to spin the ball to prevent Bowler’s Thumb; the ball-holes should fit their fingers comfortably without being too tight or too loose. Young bowlers should avoid excessive bowling to prevent overuse injuries.

Additional Resources for Bowling

Take a look at this helpful site more information:

United States Bowling Congress: Includes the official rules and information about youth bowling;

Cheerleading and Dance

Overview

There are around 3.3 million cheerleaders and 2 million dance team members in America. The average participant is 13 years old, and youths ages 7 to 17 make up 68% of cheerleaders. About 70% of cheerleaders play a second sport.

Common Cheerleading and Dance Injuries

The most common cheerleading and dance injuries occur in the lower back, lower limbs, and ankles.

Spondylolysis is a common lower back injury for dancers who frequently jump, tumble, and bend their back. Spondylolysis is a defect in the posterior vertebrae that causes stress fractures in the spinal column. Cheerleaders and dancers who suffer these fractures will experience lower back pain, especially during growth spurts. Treatment includes medical attention, a break from dancing, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers, as well as strengthening exercises and physical therapy for rehabilitation.

Cheerleaders and dancers often suffer knee injuries such as ACL tears, patellar tendonitis, and Osgood-Schlatter disease. Treatment begins with RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and continues with medical attention, especially if the athlete can’t walk or has trouble walking after sufficient rest. Stretching and strengthening exercises will help with rehab, and athletes with severe knee injuries will need to undergo physical therapy.

Inversion sprains — overstretching of ankle ligaments — are the most common ankle injuries for dancers. Here again, RICE is the primary means of treatment. The cheerleader with continual pain and weakness after RICE should see a doctor.

Cheerleading/Dance Injury Prevention

To prevent cheerleading injuries, it’s important to have spotters on the ground any time a cheerleader is stunting or tumbling. If you’re a parent, make sure the dance studio has a sprung wood floor to absorb shocks; athletic administrators should update dance studio flooring. Cheer coaches must prioritize exercises to promote hip strength and all-around training to ensure proper technique. Athletic administrators must make sure the gym has proper equipment, including floor mats.

Additional Resources for Cheerleading and Dance

Take a look at these helpful sites and articles for more information:

Pop Warner: Cheerleading Safety: Useful article about the basics of cheerleading safety for schools;

Youth Cheer and Dance Alliance: An organization dedicated to promoting consistency in scoring, participant safety, and the sportsmanship and spirit of the sport.

Football

Overview

The national high school football participation rate is declining: in the 2018-2019 season, participation dropped by 3% from the previous season (for boys; the number of girl players remained stable at around 2,000). The football participation rate is the lowest it’s been since the 1999-2000 season. Overall, however, 11-player football is still the most popular high school sport for boys, with track and field coming in second.

Common Football Injuries

High school football injuries are actually less common for players who haven’t gone through puberty. Quarterbacks and running backs get injured nearly five times more often than offensive linemen and linebackers. Knee injuries are the most common, followed by ankle, wrist, and hand injuries. Concussions resulting in traumatic brain injury are rare, as are cervical spine injuries. Overall, about 5% of kids ages 5 to 14 experience a concussion each season.

ACL and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injuries are common in football players’ knees. While ligament strains can be treated with RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), strengthening, and physical therapy, an ACL or PCL tear will require immediate medical attention and most likely surgery.

Ankle sprains and wrist sprains are very common and should be treated with RICE. Fractures account for about 25% of football injuries, and among them, wrist fractures are frequent; hand injuries are also typically fractures. Fractures must be treated with medical attention, immobilization, and rehabilitation.

For concussions, football players should seek immediate medical evaluation. After that, young players should undergo a regimen of low-level aerobic exercise, balance training, vestibular rehab, and neck strengthening.

Football Injury Prevention

To prevent football injuries, athletic administrators and coaches should have prospective players take a pre-season health and wellness evaluation to see if they’re fit for the game. Coaches should have players do warm-up and cool-down exercises and stretches; strength training and stretching are integral to injury prevention. Football players should also stay hydrated. Staff must ensure equipment fits each player properly. Coaches must train players not to lead with the helmet and tackle with the head up.

Additional Resources for Football

Take a look at these helpful sites and articles for more information:

Vox: Youth tackle football will be considered unthinkable 50 years from now: A CTE expert makes the case for why youth tackle football should be banned;

National Football League: Emphasizes proper technique, teamwork and sportsmanship to support and benefit every player.

Hockey

Overview

Ice hockey participation for youth players 18 and under has been steadily increasing, from nearly 351,000 players in the 2010-2011 season to 382,514 players in the 2017-2018 season. In 2017-2018, the participation rate for girls reached a record high.

Common Hockey Injuries

According to the III, in terms of diagnoses, 12% of hockey injuries were concussions in 2015, which was the highest concussion rate out of any sport reported. According to the AOSSM, the most common injuries are those to the head and face, accounting for 39% of injuries. The AOSSM’s report, which came out in 2018, says concussions accounted for over 18% of injuries, making this the most common hockey injury overall.

Shoulder injuries are also common, with the most common being acromioclavicular

(AC) joint sprains. AC sprains make up about 59% of shoulder injuries in hockey.

Knee and leg injuries are the third most common, accounting for about 22% of all ice hockey injuries.

Concussion treatment best practices call for immediate medical attention. After that, young hockey players should undergo a regimen of low-level aerobic exercise, balance training, vestibular rehab, and neck strengthening.

The acromioclavicular joint connects the collarbone and shoulder blade. Coracoclavicular (CC) ligaments hold the joint in place. AC joint injuries include partial tearing, full tearing, and complete tearing of both the AC joint and the CC ligament. Treatment for minor AC joint injuries includes icing, having the athlete put their arm in a sling, painkillers, as well as physical therapy and exercises for rehab. For severe AC joint injuries, have the athlete seek immediate medical attention because surgery may be required.

Young hockey players’ knees can suffer injury to the medial collateral ligament, which accounts for over 56% of knee injuries. Medial collateral ligament tears affect the ligament connecting the femur to the tibia. Minor tears can be treated with rest, bracing for 72 hours, over-the-counter painkillers, strengthening exercises and physical therapy. Have the athlete seek medical attention to see how bad the tear is because it may require surgery on rare occasions.

Hockey Injury Prevention

Because the majority of injuries are due to impact, coaches should train players to avoid unnecessary checking and to minimize impact with other players. All protective equipment must be in good shape and coaches should make sure gear fits the players properly. Players need extensive training to improve strength and technique, with the end goal being injury prevention. After a concussion occurs, preseason multimodal baseline testing can help determine the youth’s recovery level and whether they should be able to return.

Additional Resources for Hockey

Take a look at these helpful sites and articles for more information:

USA Hockey: Includes information for players, parents, coaches, and officials.

Hockey Canada: FAQs by Hockey Parents: Common questions and answers.

Martial Arts

Overview

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), over 6.5 million youths do martial arts of some form in the US. As of 2018, 25% of teens had participated in a martial arts class during the previous year. About 13% of kids under 11 had participated in martial arts. Of the teens who participated, 77% said they do it to stay healthy. According to the AAP, besides physical benefits, martial arts can help “build cognitive function, self-esteem, self-respect, and self-awareness” in youth.

Common Martial Arts Injuries

The martial arts injury rate is around 41 to 133 injuries for every 1000 athletes. Participants under 18 are four times less likely to get injured. Fractures account for about 10% of injuries. Common martial arts injuries include concussions (however, the AAP reports that concussion rates are indeterminate), injuries to the head and face, neck injuries, injuries to extremities, and skin injuries.

Should a concussion occur, the athlete should be immediately removed and medically evaluated. After that, young martial artists should undergo a regimen of low-level aerobic exercise, balance training, vestibular rehab, and neck strengthening.

Coaches should treat cuts and lacerations on the face, ears, and anywhere on the head with immediate first aid. Treat neck injuries with ice for 72 hours, and have the athlete remain active. Serious neck injuries, such as whiplash, require medical attention.

In terms of the extremities, cuts, bruises, sprains, and strains are more common than fractures. Treat cuts with first aid, and treat sprains and strains with RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation).

Martial Arts Injury Prevention

Martial arts injury prevention starts with preparation. Youths should get a physical before participating, and instructors should make sure participants are warmed up and hydrated before instruction begins. Protective equipment should be up-to-date and include headgear, cups and waist belts, mouthguards, safety glasses, and wraps for hands; practice areas should be well-padded. Participants should go barefoot. Instructors should focus on proper technique, and should be aware when sparring matches are getting out of hand.

Additional Resources for Martial Arts

Take a look at these helpful sites and articles for more information:

ATA Martial Arts: America’s largest martial arts organization, with programs for kids, adults, and families.

Understood: 9 Benefits of Martial Arts for Kids With Learning and Attention Issues

Meng’s Martial Arts: Includes a program specifically for children.

Soccer

Overview

Youth soccer participation has been dropping steadily: the number of 6- to 12-year-olds playing soccer has dropped 14% over three years. However, the US Soccer Foundation’s Soccer for Success after-school program has seen a year-over-year growth rate of 39%. Soccer helps kids develop physical coordination, stamina, and social skills.

Common Soccer Injuries

In one high school soccer study, injury rates were 2.06 for every 1,000 children participants. Over the course of the study, the concussion rate was .36 for every 1000 participants. The most common injuries were ligament sprains, concussions, and muscle strains.

Treat ligament sprains and muscle strains with RICE, followed by strengthening exercises and physical rehab, if necessary. As for concussions, even minor ones that cause a change in the athlete’s mental state deserve immediate medical attention. After they’ve been evaluated, talk to their physician about the appropriateness of low-level aerobic exercise, balance training, vestibular rehab, and neck strengthening for rehabilitation.

Soccer Injury Prevention

As with football, soccer injury prevention measures should include a preseason physical. Players should undergo an exercise regimen to ensure proper fitness. In terms of equipment, require athletes to wear molded and multi-studded cleats instead of screw-in cleats; use synthetic balls and immobile goals. Monitor field conditions for terrain issues that might cause injuries. Require players to warm up and cool down properly.

Additional Resources for Soccer

Take a look at these helpful sites and articles for more information:

American Youth Soccer Organization: Programs and camps for players.

US Youth Soccer: In partnership with the Mayo Clinic, the largest youth soccer organization has launched a soccer safety initiative for kids.

Swimming and Water Sports

Overview

Participation in high school swimming and diving programs grew for the second year in a row in 2018, with a 1.74% increase from 2017. Swimming is the 10th most popular high school sport for boys and the 8th most popular for girls. Meanwhile, water polo is one of the fastest-growing sports, with an increase in participation of 7.9% for girls and 5.5% for boys over five years. Swimming aids youth overall physical fitness and mental fortitude.

Common Swimming/Water Sports Injuries

The most common swimming injuries for kids are swimmer’s shoulder — which can include rotator cuff impingement, biceps tendinitis, and shoulder instability, as well as breaststroker’s knee, lower back problems, plus foot and ankle injuries. Swimmer’s ear — infection of the outer ear canal —  is also a common issue.

Treatment for swimmer’s shoulder is individualized and young swimmers should see a doctor. It’s not recommended for the athlete to stretch the shoulder excessively. After resting the injury and undergoing any necessary medical interventions, a youth with swimmer’s shoulder will most likely need physical therapy.

Treat lower back pain with rest and a proper diagnosis from a doctor. Follow up the rest period with strengthening exercises and physical therapy. Likewise, breaststroker’s knee will require rest. Foot and ankle injuries require RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) followed by strengthening and physical therapy.

Treatment for swimmer’s ear normally includes cleaning, acetic acid drops, and 3 to 10 days without swimming. If the athlete starts to feel ear pain and drainage, have them see a doctor.

Swimming and Water Sports Injury Prevention

To prevent swimmer’s ear, swimmers should wear tight-fitting caps. Preventing other common injuries is a matter of teaching proper technique and physical therapy after the initial injury; improper technique combined with overuse will result in injury for the young swimmer.

Additional Resources for Swimming/Water Sports

Take a look at these helpful sites and articles for more information:

Ten Tips for Safety in Boating & Watersports: Helpful tips from Discover Boating;

National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association: Volunteer organization supporting high school aquatic sports coaches;

Tennis

Overview

Youth tennis participation grew by 1.6% in 2018, with 4.6 million players driving the ball across the net. Core players — those who played at least 13 times in a year — increased by 6.7%.  In high schools, tennis is the 8th most popular sport for boys, with nearly 160,000 players, and the 7th most popular for girls, with nearly 190,000 players. Tennis helps kids develop focus and improve overall fitness levels.

Common Tennis Injuries

Overuse problems — including tennis elbow — are less common for younger players than they are for older players. According to the Journal of Sports Medicine, the most common injuries for young players are muscle sprains and ligament sprains, because young players have less conditioning when they start playing. Lower extremity injuries are twice as common as upper extremity and spinal injuries.

For ankle and knee injuries, recommend RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) to the athlete. If they experience persistent swelling, pain, or any deformity, send them to a doctor. Knee pain could signal growth plate injury, which requires care from a pediatric orthopedic specialist. Likewise, bumps, bruises, twists, and muscle strains should be treated with RICE and medical attention if symptoms persist.

Tennis Injury Prevention

The Journal of Sports Medicine notes that, “Some traumatic injuries, including contusions, abrasions, lacerations and fractures, may be unavoidable as a result of aggressive play.” On the other hand, overuse injuries are preventable. Young athletes should take a break from tennis after the season is over and try another sport. During the season, coaches and administrators should make sure the court is in good condition. Coaches should do their best to prepare athletes with physical conditioning before they start competing.

Additional Resources for Tennis

Take a look at these helpful sites and articles for more information:

United States Tennis Association Youth Tennis: Information and tools for coaches, tennis in schools, youth progression, and more.

Tennis Drills HQ: A free resource for coaches and players.

Track and Field

Overview

Outdoor track and field is the most popular high school sport for girls and the second most popular sport for boys. There are nearly 489,000 girl participants and 605,000 male participants. Track and field imparts stamina, strength, and social skills to kids.

Common Track and Field Injuries

According to a report from the University of Michigan, about 70% to 80% of injuries occur in running events, while the remainder occur in field events. The majority of injuries affect the lower extremities. Muscle strains, inflammation, and ligament sprains are the most common.

RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) is the proper treatment for any of these common injuries, followed by muscle strengthening and physical therapy. After the initial rest period, the athlete should seek medical attention if there’s still pain, swelling, or deformity.

Track and Field Injury Prevention

Like any sport that requires running, strength, and agility, track and field injuries can be mitigated through proper conditioning, stretching, and avoiding overuse. Pay close attention to equipment for pole vaulting and throwing events, as some catastrophic injuries can be prevented by updating equipment; in general, all track and field equipment, including participants’ footwear, should be in good shape for use.

Additional Resources for Track and Field

Take a look at these helpful sites and articles for more information:

USA Track and Field: Information for athlete representatives, youth athletes, coaches, and others.

Track and Field Coaching Manual: Information for coaches of track and field.

Volleyball

Overview

Volleyball is the second most popular sport for high school girls, with nearly 453,000 participants. Starting in the 2005-2006 season, volleyball’s popularity among girls began to grow steadily, to where it now trails only track and field. When it comes to USA Volleyball, the sport’s national governing body, about 76% of the members are girls between the ages of 10 and 18. Volleyball helps youth develop teamwork skills, discipline, and coordination.

Common Volleyball Injuries

In 2015, only 17,540 kids under 14 were injured playing volleyball. Conversely, 24,000 14- to 24-year-olds were injured. The NCAA reports an injury rate of 4.3 injuries for every 1,000 athletic exposures (times that an athlete participated in the sport); the most common volleyball injuries affect the legs, accounting for 51% of injuries, while arm and shoulder injuries account for over 21% of injuries. Ankle sprains are the most common, followed by “jumper’s knee,” shoulder injuries, finger injuries, and lower back pain.

Treat ankle sprains with RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation). If the athlete is still experiencing pain, swelling, or deformity after 72 hours, have them seek medical attention.

Treat jumper’s knee with RICE. Ask a doctor or physical therapist if gentle exercises will help after a period of rest. A doctor may also recommend a brace for three to six weeks. If it’s a complete tear of the patellar tendon, it may require surgery.

After a period of RICE, shoulder and arm injuries should be evaluated by a physician if there’s still pain.

Volleyball Injury Prevention

Coaches should make sure they’re trained in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). To avoid overuse, coaches should gradually increase the frequency, intensity, and duration of training. Coaches should prioritize cardio, strength, flexibility, and skills training equally; consider neuromuscular training programs to strengthen ankles and knees. Coaches and administrators should pay attention to equipment quality and facilities, and make sure the gym is properly cooled to avoid heat-related injuries.

Additional Resources for Volleyball

Take a look at these helpful sites and articles for more information:

American Volleyball Coaches Association: Videos, documents, blog posts, and other resources for coaches;

The Art of Coaching Volleyball: Skills, drills, clinics, and certifications.