Three common types of sports injuries in kids and teens are acute injuries, overuse injuries, and reinjuries:
Acute injuries happen suddenly and are usually associated with some form of trauma. In younger children, acute injuries often include minor bruises, sprains, and strains. Teen athletes are more likely to sustain more severe injuries, including broken bones and torn ligaments.
Severe acute injuries that can happen at any age include: eye injuries, including scratched corneas, detached retinas, and blood in the eye; broken bones or ligament injuries; brain injuries, including concussions, skull fractures, brain hemorrhages; and spinal cord injuries.
Acute injuries often happen because of a lack of proper equipment or the use of improper equipment. For example, without protective eyewear, eye injuries are extremely common in basketball and racquet sports. And many kids playing baseball and softball have suffered broken legs or ankles from sliding into immobile bases.
Overuse injuries are caused by repetitive actions that put too much stress on the bones and muscles. Although they can happen in adults too, they're more problematic in young athletes because they can affect bone growth.
All kids who play sports can develop an overuse injury, but the likelihood increases with the amount of time a child spends on the sport.
Some of the most common types of overuse injuries are:
anterior knee pain: Anterior knee pain is pain in the front of the knee under the kneecap. The knee will be sore and swollen due to tendon or cartilage inflammation. The cause is usually muscle tightness in the hamstrings or quadriceps, the major muscle groups around the thigh.
Little League elbow: Repetitive throwing sometimes results in pain and tenderness in the elbow. The ability to flex and extend the arm may be affected, but the pain typically happens after the follow-through of the throw. Besides pain, pitchers sometimes complain of loss of velocity or decreased endurance.
swimmer's shoulder: Swimmer's shoulder is an inflammation (swelling) of the shoulder caused by the repeated stress of the overhead motions used with swimming or throwing a ball. The pain usually begins intermittently but may become continuous pain in the back of the shoulder.
shin splints: Shin splints are characterized by pain and discomfort on the front of the lower parts of the legs. They're often caused by repeated running on a hard surface or overtraining at the beginning of a season.
spondylolysis: Spondylolysis often results from constant overextension, which puts too much stress on the bones of the lower back. This can cause persistent lower back pain. Spondylolysis is commonly seen in kids who participate in soccer, football, weight lifting, gymnastics, wrestling, and diving.
Overuse injuries can be caused or aggravated by:
growth spurts or an imbalance between strength and flexibility
excessive activity (for example, increased intensity, duration, or frequency of playing and/or training)
playing the same sport year-round or multiple sports during the same season
improper technique (for example, overextending on a pitch)
unsuitable equipment (for example, nonsupportive athletic shoes)
Reinjury happen when an athlete returns to the sport before a previous injury has sufficiently healed. Athletes are at a much greater risk for reinjury when they return to the game before recovering fully. Doing so places stress upon the injury and forces the body to compensate for the weakness, which can put the athlete at greater risk for injuring another body part.
Reinjury can be avoided by allowing an injury to completely heal. Once the doctor has approved a return to the sport, make sure that your child properly warms up and cools down before and after exercise.
Sudden exertion also can cause reinjury, so your child should re-enter the sport gradually. Explain that easing back into the game at a sensible pace is better than returning to the hospital!