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Youth Sports: Many Injuries may be Preventable

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Youth Sports: Many Injuries may be Preventable
Physical activity is very important for children of all ages, and organized sports can be a great
option to get children involved. Recently, there has been a trend for youths to participate in a
single sport year round, rather than being involved in different sports throughout the year. This
can make athletes more competitive and give them an advantage in their specific sport, but it
can also lead to a number of different overuse injuries that are so common among children.

The number of children participating in competitive sports has increased dramatically over the
last decade, which has led to an increase in the number of children suffering from sports-related
injuries. According to the American College of Emergency Physicians - more than 3.5 million
kids 14 and under are treated for sports injuries each year.(1) Many of these injuries can lead
to lost time from sports as well as create chronic problems for these individuals in the future.

Little Leaguer's Elbow commonly occurs in throwing sports, especially baseball players who
are repeatedly throwing a ball too hard and too often. The repetitive stresses placed on the
elbow from the muscles in the forearm during throwing can disrupt the growth plate causing
pain, swelling, and limited range of motion. (2,3)

Shoulder Injuries occur when athletes are required to perform repetitive overhead activities
such as with baseball, tennis, and swimming. Athletes can develop Little Leaguer's Shoulder,
Tendonitis, and Chronic Shoulder Instability as a result. The shoulder moves through an
extreme range of motion during these activities which causes the joint capsule and ligaments
to become stretched, causes inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons due to overuse and
impingement, and places excessive stress on the growth plates in the shoulder. Shoulder pain,
inflammation, and subluxations/dislocations are some of the common symptoms. (3,4,5)

Knee Injuries including ACL injuries (ligament injuries), Osgood Schlatters Disease, Jumpers
Knee (tendonitis), and Kneecap Problems are all common in sports that involve running,
jumping, pivoting, and cutting. Female athletes are at higher risk for ACL injuries due to
differences in control and strength of hamstring and quadriceps musculature compared to male
athletes. (3) Osgood Schlatters Disease is the result of injury to the growth plate on the lower
leg (tibia) from repetitive stress caused by the patellar tendon often in conjunction with a growth
spurt. Jumpers Knee (also known as patellar tendonitis) occurs when the tendon connecting
the kneecap to the lower leg becomes inflamed and irritated, often from repetitive jumping
activities as seen in volleyball, basketball, and soccer. There are a number of problems that
can involve the kneecap. Chondromalacia Patellae (Runner's Knee) is a result of irritation
of the cartilage on the back side of the kneecap. Patellar Subluxations/Dislocations occur
when the kneecap is unstable and does not track properly on the front of the knee - this
condition is often associated with muscular imbalances and the increased angle between the
hip and knee in females.

Stress Fractures are a common overuse injury often seen in young athletes. Stress fractures
of the spine are common in gymnasts, cheerleaders, and dancers. Lower extremity stress fractures
are most often associated with participation in sports involving running and jumping. (1,6)

There are steps both parents and coaches can take to help minimize the risk of injury. Performing
active warm-ups, performing cross training activities, strengthening muscles including core
musculature, using proper throwing techniques as well as limiting the amount of pitches thrown per
week, ensuring proper form during jumping/landing and cutting activities (especially in female
athletes), improving agility and coordination, and allowing athletes to get adequate rest can all help
minimize the risk of injuries. Children should not be encouraged to play through pain. The more
quickly a problem can be diagnosed and treated, the more quickly the athlete can return to play.
Delaying treatment can lead to long-term damage and future problems.

Physical Therapists are a great resource for both coaches and parents - they can help to create
sports enhancement programs that are developed to address specific areas of weakness in
individual athletes as well as improve overall flexibility, strength, agility, core stability, coordination,
endurance, power, and speed in order to minimize the risk of injury during a sport season. Physical
Therapists are also involved in the rehabilitation process after an injury has occurred to help the
athlete return to sports safely and prevent re-injury in the future.


1. Marcus, Mary Brophy, "The Game Plan: Avoid Sports Injuries." USA TODAY, 11 Aug. 2011. Web:
2. Kaar, Scott, MD. "Little Leaguer's Elbow." SportsMD, 4 April 2011. Web:
3. Green, Daniel W, MD. "Pediatric Sports Injuries: An Overview" Hospital for Special Surgery, 31 March 2010 Web:
4. "Little League Shoulder (Proximal Humeral Epiphysitis)". Institute for Sports Medicine. Children's Memorial Hospital. 2007 Web:
5. Lauffenburger, Mike, MD "Shoulder Injuries in Children and Adolscents." Hughston Health Alert. 2001.13(1):1-3 Web:
6. Sanderlin, Brent W. Raspa, Robert F. "Common Stress Fractures." Am Fam Physician. 2003 Oct15:68(8):1527-1532.