Nearly 30 million children and adolescents in the United States participate in youth sports activities. While sports are a great way for children to stay healthy and active while learning valuable life skills, participation is not without its risks. Specifically, each year, more than 3.5 million kids under the age of 14 receive medical treatment for some sports-related injury each year. Knowing a little bit of detail about these injuries and when they occur can help us to prevent their occurrence. In fact, more than half of all sports injuries in children are in fact preventable. So, what does the data tell us about these injuries? Here are some brief sports injury facts:
- Overuse injury, which occurs over time from repeated motion, is responsible for nearly half of all sports injuries to middle-and high-school students. Immature bones, insufficient rest after an injury and poor training or conditioning contribute to overuse injuries among children.
- Most organized sports related injuries (62 percent) occur during practices rather than games. Despite this fact, a third of parents often do not take the same safety precautions during their child's practices as they would for a game.
- Injuries associated with participation in sports and recreational activities account for 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among children in the United States.
- Children ages 5 to 14 account for nearly 40 percent of all sports-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments. The rate and severity of sports-related injury increases with a child's age.
The good news behind these statistics is that everyone involved in youth sports—coaches, athletes, parents and even spectators—can help to prevent them. If you have children who participate in youth sports, as a parent you can: take a proactive stance by educating yourself on the safety issues specific to your children’s chosen sports and then insist that precautions be put in place; encourage your children to engage in diverse sports activities to guard against overuse; ensure the organizers of your children’s activities have policies in place to ensure safe play.
If you’ve signed up to coach a youth sports team, some safety tips to keep in mind are: maintaining emergency contact information and medical release forms for your players; preparing for emergencies by having a first aid kit on hand; preventing accidents by carefully inspecting playing equipment and facilities; ensuring that the players get plenty of breaks and stay hydrated; and implementing safe habits at competitions and practices.