Your young athlete can choose from numerous sports activities that help promote physical fitness, team cooperation, good sportsmanship, and discipline. Mostly, however, sports are just plain fun for lots of kids. But like adults, children and teens can experience painful injuries that take them out of the game and may even cause lasting damage.
Andrew B. Weiss, MD, is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, pediatric orthopedic surgeon, and sports medicine specialist with a busy practice in Beverly Hills, California. During a fellowship program in Sports Medicine at UCLA Medical Center, he also served as team physician for UCLA’s football, volleyball, and baseball teams.
This talented and highly respected specialist works with athletes of all ages, including children and teens. He’s also an avid runner/athlete who has completed multiple marathons, triathalons, and Ragnar Relays (long-distance team races).
It’s safe to say Dr. Weiss is an expert when it comes to the physical demands of sport activity and the potential for injury in children’s sports. He’s happy to share information regarding the injuries common in children and teen sports.
Common sports injuries
Acute injuries happen suddenly and are linked to trauma during practice or the game itself. They include:
- Sprains and strains
- Torn ligaments
- Bone fractures and breaks
- Dislocated joints
- Growth plate injuries
Ankle sprains and fractures are probably the most common acute injury in all sports. Activities that require fast-paced changes in direction and speed, such as basketball and soccer, increase the risk of ligament and tendon injuries in the knees. One such common injury is an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, which can put your athlete on the bench for 7-9 months.
Caused by repetitive motion that stresses bones, muscles, and tendons, overuse injuries can develop in athletes of all ages. These injuries typically start with subtle discomfort in the affected area that worsens over time.
Overuse injuries include:
- Patellofemoral syndrome, causing pain in the front part of the knee
- Shin splints
- Inflammation of tendons attached to the inner or outer elbow
- Stress fractures, small cracks, or weak areas in bone
- Jumper’s knee, which causes pain over the patellar tendon
- Children and teens with overuse injuries may also complain of shoulder, back, or heel pain. Football linemen and gymnasts, for instance, are susceptible to back pain caused by excessive extension of the low back which may result in a stress fracture of the spine
Reinjury often occurs when young athletes return to the game or a high training level before an injury heals completely.
Preventing children’s sports injuries
There’s nothing you can do to erase the risk of injury. However, there are steps you can take to reduce the odds, including:
- Selecting programs with properly trained and available coaching staff
- Ensuring the use of appropriate safety gear, such as helmets and padding
- Encouraging your child to stop rather than “work through” pain
- Choosing the correct shoes and other sports gear for the activity
- Making sure the equipment, field, court, track, or facility is well-maintained
All athletes need rest and should avoid overtraining for any sport, even if it requires taking time off or switching to another activity periodically. You can help prevent overuse injuries or reinjury with a guided training program that gradually builds flexibility, strength, and endurance.
If your young athlete has an obvious injury or you suspect an injury and are concerned about your child’s fitness for a sport, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with Dr. Weiss. Call 310-652-1800 today.