The question of whether there is more sport related injuries in youth sports begs is similar to the which came first the chicken or the egg, or is the rooster crowing more?
Though in recent years there has been some decrease in sport participation for adolescents, overall 75% of children aged 5-17 participate in some form (Sports Participation 2010). All sports bring with them a risk of injury, younger athletes tend to suffer traumatic injuries while those over the age of 13 tend to suffer more chronic overuse type injuries, (Pediatric Sports Injuries An Age Comparison of Children Versus Adolescents)
So what really came first? Are there more young athletes or are the young athletes getting injured more? If there are more athletes participating then it would be logical to assume that there would be more injuries. However statistics do show that there has been a decrease in participation in certain sports, yet sports that did not exist in 90’s are very popular today.
However, the way sports are played has changed. Many things that would be considered activities are now organized sports, ie. Ultimate Frisbee. Sports are seen as a means to an end, school scholarships and professional contracts are the ultimate goal for many parents and athletes. Due to this athletes are pushing and being pushed at a younger age. Sport specialization and the formalization of youth sports has these young athletes performing more often and at higher intensities.
One of the major changes in sport is the culture. The “old school” thought was that if it wasn’t broke you played. Former athletes were taught to tape an Aspirin to it and keep playing, that playing through injuries no matter how severe was what made you strong. Athletes are now taught to let their coaches, parents, teachers and athletic therapists know if they are injured. This point alone could attest for the rise in injuries. It may not be there is more occurring, it is just that there are more being reported.
No matter the reasoning for the increase in sports injuries, they are occurring at a greater rate. As a parent, coach, teacher, athletic therapist/trainer, and athletes we need to focus on injury prevention and proper management. There needs to be a greater focus on player safety and overall wellness. For our young athletes to truly get the best experience in sport, they need to be able to participate without fear of injury.