Common Sports Injuries in Children and Adolescents

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Abstract and Introduction

As the population of child and adolescent athletes grows, a corresponding increase in the number of athletic-related injuries has been seen. It is commonly said that children are not just "small adults"; this is particularly true in orthopaedics. Pediatric injury types and patterns differ from those of adults and vary according to the child's skill level, level of conditioning, and actively growing musculoskeletal system. It is important to be aware of these variations to make appropriate diagnoses, guide treatment, and design preventive interventions that may reduce the incidence of future athletic-related injuries.

This article reviews the injury risk and patterns of childhood athletic injuries, including types of injuries, anatomic location of injuries, variations of injuries between the sexes, and sports-specific injuries, compared with adult sports. It is hoped that increased knowledge and awareness will permit the growing population of adolescent and preadolescent athletes to participate successfully and safely in their chosen sport and that early and accurate diagnosis will speed their return to their sport after injury.

During the past 20 years, there has been significant growth in participation of organized athletics by adolescents and preadolescents.[1,2,3] More than 30 million individuals between the ages of 6 and 21 years are involved in nonscholastic athletic programs, and an additional 5.35 million children and young adults participate in organized interscholastic sports.[4,5] Benefits of sports participation for children include confidence building, learning team and fair play, establishing patterns of a lifelong focus on fitness, providing a controlled outlet for youthful energy, optimizing sports-specific skills, and, occasionally, advancing education through sports-based scholarships. Nonetheless, the increased emphasis on sports participation has also lead to an increased incidence of the injuries related to sports.[6]

Children and adolescents are a unique cohort of athletes. They are actively learning and developing new skills, not only honing established skill levels. Their bodies are actively growing and changing, exposing them to unique injuries not seen in adults. For example, variability in the timing of skeletal maturity can lead to size mismatch in similar-aged competitors. The purpose of this article is to present a variety of factors associated with sports-related injuries in the child and adolescent athlete, including injury patterns by type, anatomic location, sex, and specific sport.

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