Dr. Heather Bergeson shared some insights on trends she notices in youth sports – and how to prevent the most common issues and injuries.

What trends are you seeing in youth sport injuries?

As a sports medicine physician, I’m seeing increasing rates of overuse injuries in children. This is due to sport specialization and year-round play. It’s important for people to understand that overuse injuries are 100% preventable.

Burnout is also a problem for kids who specialize early – about 70% quit by age 13. Children are not ready to specialize until age 13-14. Most children are not ready to understand the concept of a team sport until eight years old. By then, many are already specializing on traveling teams.

What can parents do to help their child athletes?

There are a number of things parents can do:

  • Advocate for their children by focusing on fun, fitness and friends.
  • Avoid coaching from the sidelines and “backseat talk” after games. It’s confusing and unhelpful for young athletes.
  • Athletes have their own unique strengths, so parents need to be realistic.
  • Be role models for their children by emphasizing life lessons learned through sports, not points on the scoreboard.
  • Watch for signs of burnout. Persistent pain should never be part of youth sports.

What can coaches do?

Coaches play an important role in youth sports.

  • It’s important for coaches to fill the athlete’s emotional tanks.
  • Encourage athletes to bring their best effort, attitude and accountability to each practice and game.
  • Watch for signs of burnout.
  • Ensure athletes use proper equipment, encourage a proper dynamic warm-up and allow for appropriate rest and recovery.

What can athletes do?

  • Have fun!
  • Play multiple sports throughout the year. Playing one sport at a time (sport of the season) helps to reduce overuse injuries.
  • Communicate with your coaches and parents if you are having pain or concerns.
  • Get a yearly pre-participation physical exam from your primary physician.
  • Follow the rules of the game and wear proper safety equipment.

When should an athlete seek medical attention?

It is recommended an athlete visit their doctor or sports medicine physician if symptoms persist for more than one week, despite rest and symptomatic care measures. If an athlete plays through pain, they may worsen an injury or prolong their recovery. Pain can also prevent them from playing at the level they want to play.

At TRIA, our goal is to get young athletes back to play as soon as possible and prevent injuries from occurring in the first place. It’s also important to maintain your athlete’s health and wellness with regular sports physicals, which screen for medical conditions that might make participating in sports unsafe. Learn more about sports physicals.