Current youth sports injury statistics and resources suggest that the overall youth sports injury rate hovers around 1%, with an injury resulting in an ER visit. However, if you read today's headlines and listen to the pundits you might get the impression that following a youth sports game, that all the players (and some of the coaches and ref's) are in the hospital. Well, that is certainly hardly the case and could not be farther from the facts. The vast majority of youth sports games are played with either no injuries occurring or those occurring minor in nature. Its important to balance the reality of youth sports injury against the hype and the easiest way to do that is learn the facts. We present several youth sports facts below, which we feel help point to some key sources of injury.
Practice is where injuries occur most. Perhaps most alarming, is that a whopping 62% of youth sports injuries occur during practice. When I raised the alarming practice injury rate with one team mom, she said "I'm not surprised. Kids get hurt at practice because they goof off and don't pay attention." However, according to statics shared by HeadCase, a manufacturer of protective head gear, when it comes to concussions, especially in football, more concussions (approximately 67%) occur during games than during practice. One can assume that for contact sports, full throttle contact is reserved for games which underlies this distinction.
Puberty is the line in the sand. According to the National Kids Safe Campaign, a dramatic shift in injury rates occurs at puberty. Before puberty boys and girls experience the same injury rate, but after puberty the injury rate for boys increases dramatically. HealthyChildren.org has a wonderful article which explains the changes in sports performance due to puberty:
"Going through puberty can have a significant impact on athletic performance in both positive and negative ways. While increases in body size, hormones, and muscle strength can improve athletic performance, there may be a temporary decline in balance skills and body control during the AGS. Quick increases in height and weight effect the body's center of gravity. Sometimes, the brain has to adjust to this higher observation point, and a teen may seem a bit "clumsy. This phase especially noticeable in sports that require good balance and body control (e.g. figure skating, diving, gymnastics, basketball). In addition, longer arms and legs can affect throwing any type of ball, hitting with a bat or racquet, catching with a glove or lacrosse stick, swimming and jumping. Coaches and trainers that are aware of the AGS can help reduce athletic awkwardness by incorporating specific aspects of training into practices and training sessions."
To help combat injuries sustained during AGS, author and coach Jeanne Goodes, offers the following training tips: Focus on overall movement-based training (less emphasis on resistance or weight training), speed and agility training, plyometric training (self weight/resistance training), and confidence building.
Most common forms of injury. As shown below, based on ER hospital visits as cited in the SafeKids survey, the #1 form of youth sports injury is a strain or sprain. The SafeKids report covered children and adolescents 6-19 years of age from 2011 to 2012. Note that this data stems from Emergency Room visits, so this data set does not include A) players who leave a game injured and are not seen by a physician and B) players who leave a game injured and are seen by a non-ER physician. Total injuries are therefore greater than just what is known from rolled up national ER visits.
- Strains and Sprains
- Bruises and Abrasions
If you are looking for additional youth sports injury statistics and resources, we suggest the following sites and articles.
General Injury Resources
Weight Training in Youth Sports