Commonly occurring injuries in young sports people


Sports-related injury is the leading cause of injuries among school-aged children (Luke et al., 2011). Not surprising, since regular training of children and adolescents is becoming more common in sport, and competitive sports are indulged in with increasing intensity at ever-decreasing ages (Carter & Micheli, 2011; Peterson & Renström, 2001). Young athletes can derive many benefits from sports participation however the increased demands and intensity of training can have a negative effect on children and adolescents and therefore caution is required.

Younger athletes suffer many of the same injuries that adults do. However, there are also some significant differences in the type of injuries sustained by children and adolescents (Brukner & Khan, 2009). The skeleton is the most vulnerable structure in adolescents. Though the bones are adaptable to various stresses, and in this respect are superior to those of adults, they are not as adaptable as the cardiovascular system and the muscles. In children and adolescents who participate in regular training, the musculature can develop more rapidly than the skeleton, which may be hazardous because of the unusual stress it imposes (Peterson & Renström, 2001).

Sports injuries are often classified into acute and overuse injuries.

  • Acute injuries can result from a single accident, such as a fall or direct trauma for example ligament or muscle tears and bone breaks or fractures, however overuse injuries are a rising concern in young sports people as well.
  • Overuse injuries occur as a result of repetitive microtrauma from chronic submaximal loading of the tendons, muscles or bones beyond the level required for fitness and conditioning gains, without adequate rest for positive adaptation (Luke, et al., 2011).

Although acute injuries are often difficult to prevent, overuse injuries can largely be prevented if young athletes follow an appropriate training programme, use the correct equipment and technique during sports participation and have any biomechanical problems addressed such as a leg length discrepancy.

Sports injuries that occur primarily in children and adolescents (1,4,5)

Injuries to growth plates
A growth plate is an area in developing tissue at the ends of the long bones where growth takes place in children and adolescents.
Apophysitis (inflammation of the apophysis)
Apophysis is a part of the skeleton that constitutes the attachments of tendons, ligaments or muscles.
Greenstick fracture or break
A greenstick fracture is an incomplete break in a bone. The name is derived from the similarity of such fractures to the break in a green twig taken from a tree.
Osteochondrosis (articular cartilage and bone that has been damaged breaks away and can become free, moving inside the joint)
Articular cartilage is found at the end of bones in joints and allows smooth movement.

Common sports injuries that occur in both children and adults (1,4,5)

Muscle or tendon strain (stretching or tearing)
Muscle is tissue composed of bundles of specialised cells that when stimulated by nerve impulses contract and produce movement. A tendon is a tough, fibrous cord of tissue that connects muscle to bone.
Ligament sprain (stretching or tearing)
A ligament is a band of fibrous tissue that connects 2 or more bones at a joint and prevents excessive movement of the joint.
Spondylolysis (defect or fracture in the bony structures of the spine)
Avulsion fracture (break)
An avulsion fracture is when a piece of bone is fractured and pulled away from the rest of the bone at the site of the tendon or ligament attachment


1. Brukner, P. and Khan, K. (2009). Clinical sports medicine (3rd ed.). Sydney: McGraw-Hill.

2. Carter, C.W., Micheli, L.J. (2011). Training the child athlete: physical fitness, health and injury. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 45: 880 – 885.

3. Luke, A., Lazaro, R.M., Bergeron, M.F., Keyser, L., Benjamin, H., Brenner, J., d’ Hemecourt, P., Grady, M., Philpott, J., Smith, A. (2011). Sports-related injuries in young athletes. Is over scheduling a risk factor? 21: 307 – 314.

4. Peterson, L. and Renström, P. (2001). Sports injuries: Their prevention and treatment (3rd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

5. Prentice, W.E. (2010). Essentials of athletic injury management (8th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

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