According to a 2013 report by Safe Kids Worldwide, more than 1.35 million children visited an emergency room in 2012 due to a sports related injury. Actual sports related injuries are likely quite a bit higher since this number doesn’t account for children who visited their family doctor or a walk-in clinic for care. Among children aged 6 to 19 years, common sports injuries include sprains, strains, fractures, contusions, abrasions, and concussions. The cost to treat these injuries is more than $935 million per year. Despite the risk of injury, youth sports participation continues to rise with some estimates that 46.5 million children participate every year.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System report found that in 2012 an alarming 12 percent of all ER visits were due to a concussion and forty-seven percent of these visits were from children aged 12 to 15. Concussions are particularly dangerous for children because their brains are still growing and forming. It is also known that multiple concussions can cause severe repercussions so the younger a child experiences their first; the more time there is to incur a second. Girls experience a higher level of concussions in youth sports; for example, among youth basketball players, 11.5 percent of girls admitted to the ER are diagnosed with concussions, compared with 7.2 percent of boys. The reason for the disparity is unclear according to sports medicine physician Kathryn Ackerman, co-director of the Female Athlete Program at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Overuse Injuries

“Overuse injuries” are also a common problem among youth athletes with about 25 percent of them turning serious. Overuse injuries tend to affect tendons, bones, and joints and are often a result of playing the same sport and repeating the same motion repetitively, too hard, or too young without enough time for the body to recover. Overuse injuries account for nearly half of all sports injuries to middle and high school students.

Children should be encouraged to rest and add preventive and strengthening exercises to their routines. They need to be taught proper techniques for throwing, catching, kicking, etc. and should be encouraged to tell their parents and coaches if they are feeling strained.

Youth Sports Injury Statistics

  • Football had the highest number of injuries and the highest concussion rate (40 per 10,000 athletes). Wrestling and cheerleading had the second- and third-highest concussion rates (15 per 10,000 athletes and 12 per 10,000 athletes, respectively).
  • The most common injuries occurred to the ankle (15%), followed by head (14%), finger (12%), knee (9%), and face (7%).
  • 62% of organized sports-related injuries occur during practice.
  • 20% of children aged 8 to 12 and 45% of those aged 13 to 14 will experience arm pain during a single youth baseball season.
  • Injuries associated with participation in sports and recreational activities account for 21% of all traumatic brain injuries among children in the United States.
  • According to the CDC, more than half of all sports injuries in children are preventable.
  • Among athletes aged 5 to 14, 28% of football players, 25% of baseball players, 22% of soccer players, 15% of basketball players, and 12% of softball players were injured while playing their respective sports.
  • Since 2000 there has been a fivefold increase in the number of serious shoulder and elbow injuries among youth baseball and softball players.

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