Injury Rates Among Youth Athletes

2014-04-08T15:17:42-04:00Health & Safety|

Approximately 8,000 children are treated in emergency rooms each day for sports-related injuries. According to, sprains and strains, fractures, contusions, abrasions and concussions top the list of sports-related ER diagnoses for kids ages 6 to 19. Interestingly, most of these sports-related injuries (62% in fact) happen during practices, not games. Some argue that we as a culture are simply better are reporting sports-injuries, as opposed to just telling kids to “play through it” and that’s why injury rates seem to have gone up. Others argue that early specialization and increased competitiveness are pushing players too hard to fast, meaning more injuries among younger players.

Here are some injury rate facts and figures worth mentioning:


Concussion rates more than doubled among students age 8-19 participating in sports like basketball, soccer and football between 1997 and 2007, even as participation in those sports declined. (1) Some speculate that this is because concussion awareness and diagnostic abilities have increased dramatically, meaning concussed players are getting better medical attention sooner.

In soccer, the rate of concussions among girls was 68% higher than the rate of concussions in boys, and in basketball the rate of concussions among girls was 293% higher than the rate of concussion in boys. (2) Many experts speculate as to why female athletes seem to be getting concussed at such a higher rate. Some argue that female athletes might be more likely to report their symptoms, leading to better diagnostic rates. Others think that the level of competition among female athletes has raised dramatically over the last few decades, meaning more girls are getting injured while playing.Injury Rates Among Youth Athletes

Terrifyingly, 15.8% of football players who sustain a concussion severe enough to cause loss of consciousness return to play the same day. (3) An Idaho high school football player was sent back into the game by his coaches just a few minutes after being injured on the field. He collapsed shortly after. And a Frostburg State football player ultimately died after being injured in practice and coaches ignored his complaints. Even in a player says they feel fine, if they are knocked hard enough to lose consciousness coaches should know to NEVER let that player back on the field until they have been cleared by a medical professional.

A 2011 study of U.S. high schools with at least one athletic trainer on staff found that concussions accounted for nearly 15% of all sports-related injuries reported to athletic trainers. (4) However, researchers found 32% of high school football players said they had concussion-like symptoms over the last two years, but did not seek medical attention. More than half said they didn’t report it because they were worried it would mean they would lose playing time.

Heat Illnesses

The number of heat-related injuries from 1997 to 2006 increased 133%. Youth accounted for the largest proportion of heat-related injuries at 47.6% (5) This increase in heat-related injuries has lead many sports leagues and school districts to set mandates limiting how long and how frequently teams (especially football players) can practice when it’s hot, that they be allowed to practice without full padding for the first few weeks of the season (non-contact), and be given frequent water breaks to prevent over-heating.

Two-thirds of kids show up for practice at least significantly dehydrated. (6) Being dehydrated puts players at a significant risk for heat-related illnesses, even if they do their best to drink lots of fluids during practice.

ACL Injuries

Twenty years ago, few children or adolescents with ACL injuries were showing up in the ER. Today, these injuries are much more common because young athletes are taking up sports earlier, specializing sooner, and joining high-powered competitive teams that put more pressure on their bodies. In the United States, 20,000 to 80,000 high school female athletes suffer from ACL injuries each year, with most injuries happening in soccer and basketball. And studies reveal that female athletes are four to six times more likely than boys to suffer an ACL injury. Even more interesting is that most torn ACLs aren’t torn by contact with another player. Over two-thirds of ACL injuries are caused by:

  • Stopping instantly
  • Quick, cutting movements
  • Sudden change in direction
  • Landing wrong after a jump
1 Bakhos L, Lockhart G, Myers R. Emergency department visits for concussion in young child athletes. Pediatrics. 2010;126(3):e550-e556.
2 Gessel LM, Fields SK, Collins CL, Dick RW, Comstock RD. Concussions among United States high school and collegiate athletes. J Athl Train. 2007; 42(4): 495-503.
3 R. Dawn Comstock, Center for Injury Research and Policy, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, OH.
4 Meehan WP, d’Hemecourt P, Collins C, Comstock RD. Assessment and management of sport-related concussions in United States high schools. Am J Sports Med. 2011;39(11):2304-2310. dol:10.1177/0363546511423503.
5 Nelson NG, Collins CL, Comstock RD, McKenzie LB. Exertional heat-related injuries treated in emergency departments in the U.S., 1997-2006. Am J Prev Med. 2011;40(1):54-60.
6 Walker SM, et al. Children participation in summer soccer camps are chronically dehydrated. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004;36 (5):S180-181.