Sports Injuries in Teens
Injuries sustained by early adolescents are very common, especially amongst children participating in sports or living an active lifestyle. The injuries we typically see in this population occur for various reasons. For instance, children tend to have a slower reaction time causing them to be more uncoordinated than adults. There are several factors that increase the risk of injury we see in children. Oftentimes they are not taught proper muscle usage and techniques in sports and strength training. Another factor leading to injury in young athletes is ill-fitting equipment.
Improper movement patterns are seen when all of these factors come together causing incoordination and muscle weakness. Over time improper movement patterns will cause increased stress to the tissues eventually leading to overuse injuries, acute injuries, and reinjuries.
With the proper training of the right muscles and technique, the risk for these injuries can be reduced. When focusing on improving strength, mobility, and biomechanics we begin to create more efficient and functional movement patterns which reduce the risk for injury.
A skilled physical therapist can screen for any strength, mobility, or movement and coordination impairments that a child or adolescent may have and provide them with an individualized program to correct these impairments. Some common tests performed to screen for any functional impairments include the long jump, vertical jump, single-leg hop test, and the closed kinetic chain upper extremity stability test. Each of these tests screens for different functional impairments and will assist the physical therapist in making decisions about what types of things they need to be improving in order to prevent injury.
Some common injuries that occur in adolescents participating in sports or other activities include:
- ACL tears/injuries
- labrum injuries
- facet irritation or back pain
- ligament sprains
- muscle strains
ACL injuries often occur during sports where jumping, pivoting, and quick changes in direction are common. This includes football, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, and more. In the shoulder, labral injuries are common in overhead and throwing athletes such as baseball/softball players, tennis, swimming, and weight lifting.
In the hip, labral injuries can be caused by dislocation and happen during contact sports such as football or hockey.
Facet joint irritation or back pain is also a very common injury in adolescents and can be caused by multiple reasons such as poor strength of the back extensors and core, tightness of the lumbar spine, hamstrings, and hip flexors. It is prevalent in sports such as tennis, gymnastics, soccer, swimming, golfing, and basketball.
Ligament sprains, muscle strains, and fractures are some of the most common injuries in adolescents and occur with all sports and activities. They can occur due to improper warm-ups, poor joint stability, and/or improper biomechanics.
In order to help prevent injuries, it is important to assess for specific impairments and movement and coordination issues that may predispose individuals to certain injuries. This assessment can be done by a skilled physical therapist and will assist them in creating an individualized program to help reduce their risk of obtaining injuries.