We encourage children to exercise and participate in sports because these activities promote physical and mental wellbeing. Many sports, however, carry a risk of injury, either due to the contact with the other players or from what we call “overuse”—just moving the same muscle groups too much, too often. The following tips are from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In general, the more player-to-player contact that a sport involves, the greater the risk of injury it will have. Most injuries in young athletes, however, are due to overuse.
Most injuries occur to ligaments (the tough, flexible connective tissues that connect 2 bones or cartilages together), tendons (strong fibrous cords, which are flexible but inelastic, that attach muscles to bones), and muscles.
The most frequent sports injuries are sprains (injuries to ligaments) and strains (injuries to muscles), caused when an abnormal stress is placed on tendons, joints, bones, and muscle.
Only about 5 percent of sports injuries involve broken bones; however, certain sectors of a child’s bone periodically experience episodes of rapid growth, and it is these places that are at greatest risk of injury. Therefore, if you should ever discover “point tenderness” over a bone—that is, if you can push down on a certain spot and cause pain—you should have that place evaluated further by a medical provider, even if there is minimal swelling or limitation in motion.
Contact your pediatrician if you have additional questions or concerns.
The pressure to win can cause significant emotional stress for a child. Sadly, many coaches and parents consider winning the most important aspect of sports. Young athletes should be judged on effort, sportsmanship, and hard work.
Young players should be rewarded for trying hard and for improving their skills, rather than be punished or criticized for losing a game or competition. Developing proper skills and technique as children is much more important than winning. The main goal should be to have fun and learn lifelong physical activity skills.