A Closer Look at Youth Sports Injuries

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For young athletes, nothing compares to the rush of chasing after a soccer ball, shooting hoops, or scoring a touchdown. If only this fun came with no risk of injury. Unfortunately, injuries are a possibility, and any sports injury regardless of severity can be frightening. Questions about treatment and fears of the worst possible outcome can make parents hesitant to encourage their kids to participate in sports. The following infographic will provide info about youth sports injuries, symptoms, and advice to reduce the risk of injury.

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Statistics of Youth Sports Participation and Injuries

Millions of children participate in youth sports. Records indicate 7,963,535 kids played high school sports during the 2016-17 school year. Football was the most popular boys’ program based on annual participation, with 1,057,382 participants. This was followed by track & field (600,136), basketball (550,305), baseball (491,790), and soccer (450.234). Track & field was the leader for girls’ programs with 494,477 participants, followed by volleyball (444,779), basketball (430,368), soccer (388,339), and softball (367,405).

Out of these numbers, it’s estimated that 1,160,321 high-school students sustained a high-school sports-related injury in 2016-17. 699,410 of these injuries occurred in competition, while the other 460,911 happened at practices. Boys’ football produced 444,281 injuries, the most of any sport. This was followed by girls’ soccer (190,436), boys’ soccer (145,215), boys’ basketball (88,927), and girls’ basketball (70,700).

The injury rate per 1,000 athletes tells a slightly different story than raw stats. The overall injury rate is 2.09 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposures. Football still tops the list through this metric, with 3.56 injuries. The sport is followed by girls’ soccer (2.46), boys’ wrestling (2.02), girls’ basketball (1.87), and boys’ basketball (1.54).

Sports-Related Injuries and Their Symptoms

Most Common Injuries

27% of high-school sports injuries happen to the face and head. This is followed by injuries to the ankle (18%), knee (13%), upper leg (9%), and hand or wrist (8%).

One in four injuries are diagnosed as concussions, making it the most common injury reported. Ankle sprains and strains are the second-most common diagnosis, followed by knee strains and sprains, upper leg strains and sprains, and other knee injuries. Concussions are the most common injuries diagnosed in boys’ football, boys’ soccer, girls’ soccer, and girls’ volleyball. Ankle sprains and strains are the most common boys’ basketball and girls’ basketball injury.

The concussion statistics are alarming because of the injury’s nature. A direct blow to the head can cause the brain to bounce inside its protective cushion of spinal fluid, which causes the injury. Symptoms include headache, blurred vision, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, irritability, a difficulty with concentrating and/or thinking clearly, and sleep problems.

There are several concussion treatment options available. These include imaging tests like MRIs, extended physical and mental rest, physical and neurological examination by a physician, and a gradual return to daily activities when symptoms clear. It’s also important to avoid repeated concussions, as they could lead to brain damage or death. Precautions like a pre-season baseline neurological evaluation can help physicians determine whether a concussion is fully healed.

Sprains and strains are the second-most sustained injury. They occur when ligaments tear or get over stretched. The injuries’ symptoms can include pain, tenderness, swelling, bruising, and stiffness. There are several treatment options for this condition, such as resting the injured area, ice application, taking anti-inflammatory over-the-counter drugs, and elevating the area above heart level. If the pain and swelling persist, or if a broken bone may be a possibility, it’s advisable to see a physician.

How to Reduce the Risk of Injury

Vulnerability to Injury

The rapid height and weight gain that adolescents go through make their cartilage and bones more susceptible to accidents and stresses. While they are growing, children’s craniums are disproportionately large compared to their bodies, making them prone to concussions.

Injury Prevention Strategies

There are several key tactics kids can deploy to reduce the chances of injury. Some of these tactics involve getting to know the sport, from its rules to how to use its equipment. Other strategies include self-care practices such as adequate hydration, consistent warm-up exercises prior to play, and inserting adequate rest periods within their weekly or yearly schedule. Proactive measures such as undergoing pre-season exams by a medical professional and paying attention to every injury are also important tactics.

Proper nutrition is also important for injury prevention. Children with vitamin D deficiencies are 3.7 times more likely to sustain a fracture that requires operative repair. Also, young children shouldn’t specialize in a single sport until middle or later adolescence. A study by the National Federation of State High School Associations showed that young athletes that specialize in one sport were 70% more likely to suffer an injury than those that didn’t specialize.

Youth sports have several benefits for children and adolescents, like physical and mental health, social well-being, and higher academic performance. The risk of injury may keep some kids out of the game, but preparation, proper equipment and attention to risk factors can ensure team sports are safe, fun, and positive for young people.

Learn more about Ohio University online Master of Athletic Administration.