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Sports Injury Prevention: How Can We Prevent Youth Sports Injuries?

Dear Your Teen:

My daughter enjoys sports tremendously. But, I worry about her safety. There’s all the talk in the news about teen sports injuries. The list is long: head injuries, the knee, broken bones, and other injuries some of her teammates already have. How can I keep my child safe and healthy on the playing field? And when should I be concerned?

EXPERT | Dr. Amanda Weiss Kelly

Teen Sports Injury Prevention

Neither helmets nor other headgear—like the headbands for soccer players—have been shown to prevent the risk for concussion. In other words, even if your teenager is wearing all the recommended equipment, they may still be injured.

However, for head injuries, the severity of symptoms and length of recovery time can decrease significantly if the injured athlete is removed from competition immediately and abstains from all forms of physical activity until all symptoms have resolved. It’s imperative your athlete follow the instructions of their doctor. Rest from mental activity (such as school) and visual stimulation (such as computers, phones, and video games). This can help to resolve symptoms more quickly, especially in the days and weeks following the injury.

Regarding knee injuries, there are several well-studied programs that can significantly decrease the risk for one of the most common knee injuries, an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (or ACL) injury, as well as other types of knee injuries. The PEP program, which was developed by the Santa Monica Sports Medicine Foundation, is one of the easiest. It’s a series of warm ups and other exercises (like stretching) that can be performed 3 to 5 days per week in lieu of your athlete’s usual warm-up. You can learn more about the Pep program at smsmf.org.

Dr. Amanda Weiss Kelly

Dr. Amanda Weiss Kelly is chief of the Division of Pediatric Sports Medicine, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.