American Family Children's Hospital

This Month in Sports Rehabilitation: Injuries in Young Athletes (August 2010)

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Injuries in adolescent athletes differ from those suffered by adults.According to National Youth Sports Week highlights, an estimated 45 million children across the nation participate in youth sports each year, often as early as four or five years of age.1 Participation in youth sports has become increasingly popular and many kids participate in year-round training with sport specialization at a young age.2

However, more than 3.5 million kids under the age of 15 receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year, according to the National Center for Sports Safety.  Children between 5 and 14 account for nearly 40 percent of all sports-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments, and many less severe injuries are treated in outpatient clinics.3


In a two-year study, approximately 5 percent of adolescents experienced one or more sports-related injures (related to baseball/softball, basketball, biking, football, skating and soccer) that resulted in medical attention.4


A recent survey indicated that 15 percent of basketball players, 28 percent of football players, 22 percent of soccer players, 25 percent of baseball players and 12 percent of softball players aged 5-14 were injured while playing sports.3


Adolescent sport injures differ from adult sport injuries. The young athlete is vulnerable to specific sport injuries because of the physical and physiological processes of growth. Unique risk factors to the adolescent athlete include susceptibility to growth plate injury as tolerance limits of the growth plate might be exceeded by mechanical stress of acute injury or repetitive stress thereby causing failure to occur through the growth plate.


Sports injuries can be traumatic/contact, non-contact or due to overuse. Non-contact injuries can occur with poor movement control associated with a rapid deceleration or change in direction. Overuse injuries occur over time from repeated motion. Some sports injuries can be prevented with adequate physical exams, proper preseason conditioning and safety equipment, teaming up by size instead of age, proper warmups and not playing when injured.5


How We Can Help


UW Health Sports Rehabilitation has a staff with experience and specialization in the evaluation and treatment of sports injuries suffered by adolescent athletes. Our team of physical therapists and athletic trainers are trained to perform thorough assessment and rehabilitation specific to youth and their particular sport.


Recently Amy Schubert, MPT gave a lecture on “Adolescent Athletic Injuries” to athletic trainers and physical therapists at the UW Health Sports Medicine Center. View her PowerPoint presentation.


Marc Sherry, PT, DPT, LAT, CSCS also recently presented at a conference of physicians and therapists from around Wisconsin on strategies for rehabilitation of adolescent athletes. View his PowerPoint presentation.


In the fall, UW Health Sports Medicine holds a Saturday Morning Sports Injury Clinic for adolescent, high school and college-aged athletes with acute injuries suffered during competition. The clinic runs from 9am-noon at UW Health's University Station Clinic from Aug. 28-Oct. 16. Athletes with pre-exisiting or chronic conditions are not encouraged to attend these clinics. Learn more.


Sports Rehab: Conditions and Treatments


We also have specialty programs such as Runners Clinic, Cycling Clinic, Throwing Analysis Clinic, Golf Clinic and Performance Spectrum that are available for adolescent athletes. The staff at UW Health Sports Rehabilitation also collaborates with UW Health Sports Medicine and Pediatric physicians and local high school athletic trainers for comprehensive and efficient care following injury.



  1. Learning RX Media Center. National Youth Sports Week Highlights Benefits of Participating in Youth Sports.  Retrieved July 28, 2010 from web site.
  2. Maffulli N, Caine DJ.  Epidemiology of Pediatric Sports Injuries: Team Sports. Med Sport Sci (2005); 49:1-8. 
  3. National Center for Sports Safety. Sports Injury Facts. Retrieved July 28, 2010 from web site.
  4. Cheng TL, Fields CB, Brenner RA, et al.  Sports Injuries: an Important Cause of Morbidity in Urban Youth.  Pediatrics (2000); 105:32-37.
  5. University of Michigan Health System. Youth Sports Safety. Retrieved July 28, 2010 from web site.