While youth sports have many benefits for young people, including exercise, discipline, and teamwork, these activities also pose a risk of injury. Rates of sports-related injuries have risen over the past decade due to more intense training, the inclusion of younger children in competitive sports, and seasonal sports that are now played year-round. For any parent, knowing how to stop a nosebleed is a necessary skill to have.
Here are some of the most common sports injuries we see in patients under 18 years of age at our urgent care centers.
1. ACL tears
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a large ligament that helps stabilize the knee. This ligament can be torn when an athlete stops or changes direction quickly, makes a sudden movement, or sustains a direct hit to their knee. The most common sport for ACL tears is football, though athletes who participate in basketball, soccer, tennis, and skiing can sustain ACL tears as well.
Since complete ACL tears nearly always require surgery, ACL tears are the leading cause of all sports-related orthopedic surgeries.
2. Ankle sprains
The ankle is the most commonly-injured joint in the body. An ankle sprain occurs when any (or all) of the three large ligaments that stabilize the ankle joint are overstretched. Most ankle sprains are injuries, where the foot rolls inward and causes damage to the ligaments along the outer ankle.
Because ligaments connect to bone, severe sprains can also cause an avulsion fracture, where a piece of bone is pulled away from the rest of the bone when the ligament is stretched or torn. Because of this risk, healthcare providers often obtain an ankle X-ray to evaluate patients who have sustained a significant ankle injury.
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that occurs when someone sustains a significant jolt, blow or bump to the head that causes the brain to move inside the skull.
Concussions pose a special risk to adolescents and teens because their brain isn’t fully developed until they reach their early-to-mid 20s. Trauma sustained before the brain is fully developed can have long-term consequences, including depression and learning difficulties. The most common sports for concussions are boys’ football, girls’ soccer, and boys’ ice hockey.
It’s important for young athletes to wear proper protective equipment and be evaluated promptly if they do sustain a head injury. It’s also important to let a concussion injury completely heal before returning to the sport since injuries sustained while the brain is still healing have an exponentially negative effect.
4. Little Leaguer’s Elbow
Repetitive throwing can cause an elbow condition called medial apophysitis. This condition is often called “Little Leaguer’s Elbow” since this injury is most commonly seen in young athletes who play baseball.
A little Leaguer’s Elbow occurs when there’s a strong pull on the ligaments and tendons that hold the bones of the elbow in place, which usually happens when an athlete throws a baseball with force. A similar injury can happen to tennis players of all ages and is known as “tennis elbow.”
Patients with this condition often have elbow pain as well as a bump that forms on the inner aspect of the elbow. Little Leaguer’s Elbow often resolves with ice and rest, and in many cases can be prevented by giving young baseball players proper throwing instructions.
Young people with severe or prolonged pain should undergo a medical evaluation that typically includes an X-ray since this type of injury can cause significant damage to the bones that form the elbow joint.
Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant