Nearly 40 million children and adolescents participate in organized sports in the United States each year. And even more participate in informal recreational activities. Although sports participation provides numerous physical and social benefits, it also poses a large risk of sports-related injuries. According to SafeKids, in 2013, there were 1.3 million kids (19 years and younger) seen in emergency departments for injuries related to sports. Additionally, 62 percent of injuries occur during practice rather than in official games.
The Most Common Sports-Related Injuries in Kids
Although the level of sports injuries we see varies in degree, the more common types of injuries we treat include sprains and muscle strains, bone or growth plate injuries, and repetitive motion injuries.
Sprains and Muscle/Tendon Strains
A sprain is an injury to a ligament, one of the bands of tough, fibrous tissue that connect two or more bones at a joint and prevent excessive movement of the joint. An ankle sprain is the most common athletic injury. A strain is an injury to either a muscle or a tendon. A muscle is a tissue composed of bundles of specialized cells that, when stimulated by nerve messages, contract and produce movement. A tendon is a tough, fibrous cord of tissue that connects muscle to bone. Muscles in any part of the body can be injured.
Bone or Growth Plate Injuries
In some sports accidents and injuries, the growth plate may be injured. The growth plate is the area of developing tissues at the end of the long bones in growing children and adolescents. When growth is complete, sometime during adolescence, the growth plate is replaced by solid bone. The long bones in the body include:
- The long bones of the hand and fingers (metacarpals and phalanges)
- Both bones of the forearm (radius and ulna)
- The bone of the upper leg (femur)
- The lower leg bones (tibia and fibula)
- The foot bones (metatarsals and phalanges)
Repetitive Motion Injuries
Painful injuries such as stress fractures (a hairline fracture of the bone that has been subjected to repeated stress) and tendinitis (inflammation of a tendon) can occur from overuse of muscles and tendons. Some of these injuries don’t always show up on x-rays, but they do cause pain and discomfort. The injured area usually responds to rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Other treatments can include crutches, cast immobilization, and physical therapy.