Millions of children participate in sports and recreational activities every year in the United States. However, there are also millions of sports-related injuries occurring and unfortunately, these numbers are on the rise. It is estimated that more than 3.5 million children under the age of 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries annually.
The most common types of sports-related injuries in children are sprains, muscle strains, bone or growth plate injuries, and heat-related illness. Traumatic brain injuries (concussions) are also on the rise and it is estimated that 2 out of 5 traumatic brain injuries among children are associated with participation in sports.
A traumatic brain injury occurs when a bump, blow, or jolt to the head changes the way the brain normally works. This type of injury can occur during practices and games in any sport or recreational activity. It is estimated that 90% of traumatic brain injuries occur without the loss of consciousness. Children and teens are more likely to sustain a concussion and take longer to heal than adults. Direct medical costs and costs such as lost productivity due to traumatic brain injury totaled an estimated $60 billion in the United States in 2000.
Symptoms of a traumatic brain injury include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Balance problems or dizziness
- Double or blurry vision
- Bothered by light or noise
- Feeling sluggish or groggy
- Difficulty paying attention
- Memory problems or confusion
If a traumatic brain injury is suspected, the following steps should be taken:
- Notify the coach or athletic trainer.
- Get a medical checkup from a doctor or healthcare professional.
- Allow adequate time to heal.
For more information about traumatic brain injury prevention and treatment, take the free online Heads Up training from the Center for Disease Control. This training teaches coaches how to recognize, respond to, and prevent concussions in sports. Additional materials including the following fact sheets are also available.
- Concussion Fact Sheet for Athletes
- Concussion Fact Sheet for Coaches
- Concussion Fact Sheet for Parents
An overuse injury occurs when there is repetitive strain to a tendon, bone, or joint. As more children are playing sports year round, overuse injuries are becoming more common. Experts estimate that up to 50% of sports-related injuries seen in children are related to overuse. Common overuse injuries include tennis elbow, swimmer’s shoulder, and stress fractures.
The key to preventing overuse injuries is time off. It is recommended that athletes have at least two to three months off per year. In addition to proper rest and recovery time, there are also specific exercises that can reduce the risk of injury. To view videos of these exercises and learn more prevention tips, please visit Nationwide Children's Hospital.
Heat-related illness is the leading cause of preventable death among high school athletes. These heat stroke deaths occur mainly during the summer months and at the beginning of conditioning for fall sports. Heat-related illness occurs when there is an excessive loss of fluids from the body often initially resulting in dehydration.
For more information about keeping athletes properly hydrated, please see the Hydration Recommendations from the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Want an inexpensive way to make your athlete safer on the field? Pop in a mouthguard! More than 2 million teeth are knocked out every year in sports-related injuries. Mouthguards prevent injury to the mouth, teeth, lips, cheek and tongue and reduces the risk for concussions. According to the American Dental Association, wearing a mouthguard is the most effective way to reduce the incidence and severity of sports-related dental injuries.
Educational materials for your team can be downloaded and printed:
Skin infections among athletes are a serious concern for many sports. These infections are passed through direct skin-to-skin contact or by the sharing of sports equipment, clothes, and towels. If left untreated, skin infections can cause lost playing time, reoccuring wounds or rashes, permanent scarring, and in some rare cases they can be life-threatening.
The simplest ways to prevent these infections include:
- Frequently washing hands with soap and water
- Showering immediately after practices and games
- Covering all open cuts and wounds with waterproof bandages
- Washing clothes and towels immediately after practices and games
- Establishing and implementing policies and procedures for cleaning and disinfecting shared sports equipment
To learn more about the prevention and treatment of skin infections among athletes, visit the Minnesota Department of Health. Additional materials including the following fact sheets are also available.