Injury Prevention in Youth Sports

by Mark Wood, M.D.

Sports injuries are common in youth athletes who often suffer sprains, strains, bruises, or broken bones. The most common injuries are to the leg, ranging from a twisted knee or ankle to a direct blow from a collision.

Fifty percent of youth injuries are due to overuse or over-exertion, without proper rest and recovery.  The most common presentations include shin splints, patella or achilles tendinitis and stress injuries or fractures.

The majority of youth sports injuries may be preventable. Several ways to avoid injury include:

  • Using good equipment. Make sure your child has well-fitting cleats, helmets, mouth and shin guards, and other appropriate protective gear.
  • Staying hydrated. Kids need to be reminded and encouraged to drink plenty of water.
  • Staying in good condition. Athletes who are in better physical shape tend to have fewer injuries. If your child has been away from sports for a while, allow him or her to gradually progress with activities including strength, agility training, and aerobic conditioning.
  • Avoiding overuse injuries. Many young athletes participate in one sport year-round and tend to over train. It is important to allow time for rest and recovery as opposed to continuing to push through pain and discomfort. This leads to burnout and also increases the chance of injury.  Teach your child to listen to his or her body and pay attention to warning signs.

Research has proven that utilizing focused exercise training programs (strength, balance and plyometrics) will decrease the chance of minor and major athletic injuries by greater than 50%.  Coaches and parents can make a difference by encouraging proper warm-up and performing prevention techniques, especially for young female athletes participating in cutting, jumping and pivoting sports (soccer, basketball, lacrosse, etc). The programs are quite simple and require only 10-20 minutes twice a week.

Dr. Wood is Board Certified in Orthopaedic Sports Medicine and practices at Wake Orthopaedics in Raleigh, NC. For further educational information, including the Wake Ortho injury prevention screening program, please visit