Young Athletes

Young athletes enjoy sports more today, than they ever have in the past.  Young athletes have special needs because their bodies are still growing.  They require different coaching, training, and conditioning than mature adult athletes.  It's very important to be careful of young athletes medical issues, so that they can mature properly and be prepared for pressures and physical injuries that can come with increased sports activity.

Young athletes have differences in strength, stamina, and coordination.  When people are young uneven growth patterns are often found in bone-tendon-muscle units of people, so injury is more apt to occur.  Younger athletes are less likely to suffer severe injuries because they are slower and smaller, but they are also more fragile so appropriate care must be taken.

Coaches

At the young ages, coaches have an important role in helping children compete safely.  They must pay very close attention for limps or staggers, to find physical injuries early.  The more severe injuries are easier because kids can't continue to play and express great pain.  The low-grade injuries are the trouble ones because often young athletes will ignore them, which can cause real problems later in life.

Most injuries in young athletes are caused from overuse and repetitive stress, particularly elbow and knee injuries.  The overuse on these immature muscle-bone units can cause fractures, muscle tears, and bone deformities.  It's very important that coaches have the appropriate amount of training for these young athletes in order to keep them physically fit.

The correct amount of muscle strength, flexibility, cardiorespiratory fitness, and endurance are essential.  Also very important is the psychological atmosphere that these young athletes so badly need.  They need positive self-image, self-reliance, trust, cooperation, and confidence.  Coaches must teach young athletes how to deal with successful and defeat in order to keep things in perspective and foster growth.

Injury Types

N.B. coaches must watch out for age/size mismatches where a 140 pound 12 year old hits an 80 pound 12 year old in contact sports.  Coaches must also provide a safe environment for the athletes by evaluating and monitoring the playing fields.

Luckily, most sports injuries in young people aren't severe.  Most are soft tissue injuries, involving bruises, muscle pulls, sprains, strains, and abrasions.  These injuries aren't very serious most of the time and allow for children to continue to compete will little lost time.

Sprains

Nearly one-third of all sports injuries are classified as sprains.  A sprain is a complete or partial tear of a ligament, which is tissue that connects the ends of bones and stabilizes the joint.  Symptoms include the following: the joint feeling loose, loss of motion, swelling, and pain.

Strain

A strain is a complete or partial tear of the muscle or tendon.  Muscle tissue is made of cells that contract and make the body move; a tendon is connective tissue that attaches muscles to bones.

Contusions

This is the most common sports injury, and what it really is a bruise.  They result from blunt blows and cause underlying bleeding in a soft tissue or muscle.

The treatment for soft tissue injuries usually includes rest, applying ice, an elastic bandage wrap, and elevation.  The above will decrease pain and swelling and allow for healing to take place more quickly.

Spinal Cord

Although spinal cord injuries are rare in sports, they can range from sprains in the arms or legs to death, so they must be recognized.  Exercises to strengthen the neck can help to avoid any neck and spinal cord injuries.

Skeletal Injuries

These usually occur from severe collision from athlete to athlete, and often don't occur in young athletes because they aren't quite big or strong enough.  They usually occur in the form of fractures, but sometimes dislocations can be seen as well.  What can be seen more in young athletes is overuse injuries, for example a very common one is that of "little league elbow," which is from a pitcher throwing too much.  This can cause injury to the cartilage surfaces of the young athletes.

Treatment

Treatment for all injuries is very important and must be made by appropriate person, in most cases an orthopedic surgeon.  The athletes will be seen and assessed by the doctor.  The appropriate treatment will then be administered to help the young athlete get back to normal.