Two kids participating in a YMCA Youth Basketball League practice

Getting your child involved in sports opens up opportunities for character growth and learning how to work with a team for a common goal. However, your child does run the risk of a sports injury no matter what sport they play.

Some activities, such as football, cheerleading and soccer, have higher rates of injury than others. But even the seemingly safest sports, such as golf or tennis, can result in a concussion or bruise. What types of injuries happen the most, and how can you keep your child safe? We've gathered some useful information for parents of young athletes to assist with injury recognition and prevention.

What Are Common Sports Injuries in Kids?

Children typically suffer from three main types of injuries:

  • Acute: Acute injuries are often caused by trauma, such as sliding into home plate, occur quickly and can be severe. Examples include broken legs, bruises, eye injuries and concussions.
  • Overuse: When children repeat the same motion over and over again, they can sustain an injury. Growth spurts and spending too much time practicing can make the injury worse. Examples include Little League elbow, shin splints, pain under the kneecap and swimmer's shoulder.
  • Reinjury: Kids who return to practice or games before an injury has completely healed risk reinjuring themselves. They can also get hurt with a sudden movement that reactivates the injury.

How to Prevent Sports Injuries in Children

By taking smart precautions, you can lower your child's risk of developing a sports injury. Follow these tips to keep them safe:

Use the Right Equipment

Wearing well-fitting helmets, pads, shin guards and mouth guards can protect kids from errant balls or bats. Equipment that is too big or small won't provide the right protection, so replace gear each year as your child grows.

Get a Doctor's Clearance

If your child sustains an injury, take them to a physician before they begin playing again. Do not let them rejoin their team until the doctor says it is okay.

Encourage Proper Warmups

Getting the body ready for physical activity gradually with a warmup, such as jumping jacks or light jogging, limbers up the muscles and decreases the chances of a tear or other traumatic injury. If your child's team doesn't perform pregame warmups, talk to the coach or have your child do it on their own.

Provide Oversight

A coach should oversee your child's practices. They can make sure no hazardous activities are occurring, such as horseplay, that can lead to injury. Ask if the coach has first aid and CPR training. If they do not, volunteer to get the training yourself and hang around practices.

Choose the Right Level

Many parents are eager to advance their children to older age groups to have them play better competition and improve their skills. But differences in size and maturity may work against your child. They can get injured more easily when playing against larger kids. Staying in the right age group is safer for all children unless they are big for their age.

Ensure Proper Hydration

Make sure your child drinks enough during practices and games to avoid dehydration, which can also lead to fatigue. When your child is tired, they might not practice the right form, prompting an injury.

Plan Downtime

All kids should take downtime from their sports, too. Overuse injuries happen when they don't get a break. Sustained time off gives your child's muscles time to heal and build. Rest also offers kids the mental rest they need to come back strong for the next season. Give children at least a few months off of every sport they play to avoid any sports injuries.

Are Kids of Certain Ages More Susceptible to Injury?

Children of any age can get hurt. Often the cause of a child sports injury is related to the kid's age. Children under age 8, for instance, have less motor control and balance, and they become susceptible to injuries caused by clumsiness, such as knocking heads. Teenagers, however, are more coordinated but also much bigger, and a collision between them on the football field will be more severe than when they played in the youth league.

Encourage Safety and Fun

You can't always prevent sports injuries in kids. Still, you can reduce their chances of serious injury by emphasizing safety and encouraging them to tell you about anything that's bothering them. Is your child searching for the perfect sport to play? The Gateway Region YMCA has a range of fun sports leagues, clinics, and activities for kids.