Your Guide to The Most Common Youth Sports Injuries
According to Stanford Children’s Health, over 3.5 million children and teens are injured as part of organized sports or physical activity each year. According to the CDC, an average annual estimate of 8.6 million sports- and recreation-related injury episodes were reported, with the majority of these injuries being men. Needless to say, sports injuries are rather common, but we’re not saying this to scare you. Most of the time, sports injuries are rather easy to care for and more common in our practice. Today, we’re going to break down the most common sports-related injuries for each sport and discuss how each are treated when working with children and adult athletes.
As aforementioned, kids are more susceptible to sports-related injuries. As many as 40 percent of girls and 50 percent of boys experience a fracture during their childhood. When it comes to treating a common sports-related injury, age must be taken into consideration. Because adults are done growing by the time of their fracture, there are some obvious changes to the way an adolescent fracture would be treated in comparison. Children and young teenagers are constantly growing and their bodies are changing, so their fractures must be treated in a way that won’t negatively impact their growth plate and joints, or prevent their bodies from growing in a healthy and natural way.
Calf strains: Calf injuries are one of the most common injuries in soccer players, in adults and children. A calf strain is a tear in a muscle at the back of the lower leg. These types of injuries can often be caused by a sudden push-off movement, like a quick sprint or a high jump from a stagnant position. While these strains can range from mild to severe and some are worse than others, it is best not to continue playing on any until fully healed. Treatment for calf strains usually includes rest, ice, and compression.
Clavicle fractures: While you might think of soccer as a foot sport, clavicle (or collarbone) fractures are actually pretty common. The clavicle is actually the most common fractured bone in the human body. These types of injuries, in soccer specifically, can occur from a fall landing on an outstretched hand, impact to the shoulder in a tackle, or specifically for goalies, overstretching or reaching too fast above the head. These types of fractures are usually treated through immobilization, with the use of a sling or splint. Clavicle fractures are usually fully treated within two to three weeks, but some cases may be more severe.
Foot fractures: Foot fractures, also known as metatarsal fractures, are common in soccer players because of how often the foot is used to play the sport. Whether it be from kicking, being stepped on, being kicked, or even from spraining the ankle joint, metatarsal fractures are the name of the game. Foot fractures are treated through immobilization in a cast or a walker boot for 6 to 8 weeks, followed by rehabilitation and balance training.
Shoulder dislocations: One of the most common injuries in football is shoulder dislocations, and they actually are even more common for young athletes. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, recurring shoulder dislocations were way more common in athletes between the ages of 20 and 30 and happened rarely in patients over 40 years old. Most of the time, patients can continue playing football just months after a shoulder dislocation injury without surgery. And even when surgery is required, these types of injuries don’t usually disqualify the athlete from returning to the sport. With the use of immobilization and physical therapy, athletes are usually back within 4 to 6 months.
Concussions: 300,000 concussions happen because of football injuries each year. According to UPMC Sports Medicine out of the 300,000 concussions, 5 in 10 concussions go unreported or undetected. Concussions can be unpredictable and can become a really big deal, while other times, they can simply need some rest and relaxation. Most of the time, concussions are treated through rest, allowing the patient’s brain an ample amount of time to recover from the hit. Concussions are often diagnosed through common symptoms like headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and feeling foggy.
Wrist/hand injuries: Because of the nature of the sport, wrist and hand injuries are fairly common. The most common types of these injuries are a jammed finger, finger dislocation, mallet finger, jersey finger, finger fracture, sprained thumb, scaphoid fracture, and similar issues. These can happen through catching the ball wrong, falling on the hand or wrist, having a hand stepped on, stretching, or tearing ligaments and other football-related mishaps. Football is potentially one of the most dangerous sports because of the way it is played, and wrist and hands are often easy to hurt.
Shoulder injuries: Once again, because of how this sport is played, the shoulder is usually at risk. Because of the athletes reaching far overhead, often in fast jerking motions, problems may ensue. Most of the time, these are sprains or strains and are caused by overuse. Though, still common are issues like rotator cuff tendonitis or tears and shoulder impingement syndrome. These can be prevented, most of the time, through stretching before and after practices and games. They are also relatively simple to treat and not life-threatening.
Knee injuries: In sports with a lot of jumping like volleyball, the knee becomes a target for pain. This can be caused by poor landing techniques, like landing with a straight leg or falling on the leg at a strange angle. Instead of landing in a seated back position, players sometimes land too upright, hurting the knee in the process. Much like shoulder injuries caused by volleyball, they are often easy to treat and mostly require rest and immobilization.
Ankle sprains: In the same strain, landing on an ankle poorly can also result in an ankle strain. If a player’s knees are too far past their ankles when landing, they can be hurt or sprained almost instantly. Ankle sprains are often treated through rest, ice and immobilization, and players are often splinted. This might result in a boot or crutches being needed for daily commutes. Lateral ankle sprain, caused by an athlete landing on the outside part of their foot are also very common.
Track and Field
Shin splints: Because of how much running is involved with track and field, shin splints can be relatively common. Shin splints is a term used to describe the inflammation of the tendons attaching the shin muscles to the tibia (shin bone). This inflammation is mostly caused by overuse and can be prevented through stretching and practice. Treatment will include rest, ice, and immobilization, but can also include a change of footwear and an adjustment to exercise routines or form.
Hamstring injuries: Much like shin splints, hamstring injuries are common in track in field. This is because of how overused the hamstring muscles can become in this sport, as opposed to the common everyday use of the hamstring muscles. If an athlete begins overworking their hamstring too strong out of the gate, especially if their hamstrings have not been built up or strengthened beforehand, it is pretty standard for an injury to occur. Doctors recommend working out the hamstring muscles often if you are predicting a high amount of running any time soon.
Achilles tendonitis: This issue is often caused by poor running form or by wearing poor running shoes. When either of these two things is true, it can cause chronic inflammation of the tendon connecting the heel to the calf muscles. Then, it is enforced through overuse and repetition. This means that Achilles tendonitis is something that should be taken care of before an athlete begins to run again.
Elbow injuries: The ulnar collateral ligament, a ligament that runs on the inner side of the elbow, can be injured from takedowns in wrestling. While this can be treated with ice and rest, it often needs to be treated surgically. Sometimes, wrestling also results in a humerus shaft fracture, which is due to excessive torque of the arm. Elbows are often slammed into the ground, used as a defense, and are a large part of wrestling matches.
Finger fractions: Some of the most common finger injuries in wrestling are finger fractions, finger dislocation, finger sprain/hyperextension or jersey finger. These can often cause bursitis and osteoarthritis later down the road if too many finger injuries are sustained. Because of the swinging, high impact, and use of the hands in this sport, fingers can become a target for pain in wrestling matches. Fingers can be protected with athletic gloves and preventative measures can be taken.
Little league elbow: Baseball and softball are sports that a ton of children play, like little league. Because of this, there are even terms created to explain the most common injuries. Little league elbow is a blanket term used to describe elbow injuries caused to young athletes who throw. This means that the injury itself may differ from the next case of little league elbow, because it is so broad. Even so, little league elbow is usually caused through overuse, but can be caused by a single injury.
Little league shoulder: In the exact same way, little league shoulder is a blanket term to describe shoulder injuries to young throwing athletes. Just like the elbow can be overused, the shoulder can as well, especially if a child is throwing repeatedly or at high velocity and speed. This most commonly occurs in youth overhand pitchers between ages 11 and 16 and causes widening of the growth plate, resulting in swelling and pain at the shoulder.
Overuse-related injuries: Especially in children, baseball is a sport that includes a lot of repeated motions. This same repeated motion being done over and over can cause a ton of different types of overuse injuries. Overuse injuries, just as they sound, are injuries caused by repeated action. Baseball is notorious for this because the game works like clockwork and certain athletes on the field have certain positions that they stick with. This might be an overused elbow or shoulder but could definitely be another part of the body.
ACL tears: ACL tears are so common in basketball that many NBA players have suffered from one, recovered and returned to the game successfully. An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury is the overstretching or tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee, which is located in the center of the knee. This joint exists to prevent the shin bone from moving too far forward over the thigh bone. This tear might be able to be treated with immobilization but may need a surgical reconstruction.
Sever’s disease: Sever’s disease only occurs in growing children and is most often caused in children who are often running and jumping. Sever’s disease happens when the tendon that attaches to the back of the heel (the Achilles tendon) pulls on the growth plate (the apophysis) of the bone of the heel (the calcaneus). This causes irritation and inflammation. This can be prevented, and even treated through stretching, and more specifically calf stretching. Sever’s disease is most common in children from 8-14 years of age.
Osgood Schlatter’s syndrome: Osgood Schlatter’s syndrome, or Osgood Schlatter’s disease, common cause of knee pain in growing children. This is the inflammation of the area right below the knee and can happen during growth spurts. Children who are more active, like those who are athletes and specifically those who play basketball, are susceptible to this syndrome. This is because running and jumping (which are common in basketball) make this issue more prevalent. Like many of the injuries on this list, treatment is usually ice, rest, and immobilization.
Dealing with a sports-related injury? Need some help figuring out your next step? Schedule an appointment with Integrated Orthopedics today. We have physicians on our team who are fellowship-trained and specialists in Sports Medicine.