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Common Injuries in Adolescent Sports

By Karen Doss Bowman April 07, 2016

Overuse injuries are becoming increasingly common among children and adolescents who participate in sports. Here, Duke sports medicine specialist Tracy Ray, MD, offers tips that will keep your child healthy on and off the field.

More Children Involved in Sports Means More Injuries

More children and adolescents than ever are involved in sports—nearly 30 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While kids learn many valuable lessons from athletic competition, including teamwork, perseverance, and confidence, many are at risk for injury. The CDC reports that more than 7,100 children and teens up to age 19 were treated each day in 2009 for sports-related injuries.

“Our culture of competition and participation in multiple sports is creating an increase in sports injuries among kids,” said Duke sports medicine specialist Dr. Tracy Ray, MD. “We’re seeing overuse injuries in very young people that we didn’t see in the past.”

As the spring sports season approaches, Ray offers these tips to prevent injuries in common sports.

Baseball and softball

Common injuries

  • Bursitis in the shoulder. Bursitis is inflammation of the fluid-filled pads that act as cushions at the joints.
  • Tendonitis in the shoulder, elbow, forearm, wrist or hand. Tendonitis is a condition in which the tissue connecting muscle to bone becomes inflamed.
  • Back and neck pain
  • Irritation or widening of the growth plate (elbow) Tears in the ulnar collateral ligament (elbow) 


  • Condition the arm. Throw balls before the season begins and gradually increase intensity of practice.
  • Follow pitch count guidelines.
  • Avoid playing in multiple leagues.
  • Practice proper throwing mechanics.
  • Don’t play baseball or softball year-round. Give the arm time to rest. 


Common injuries

  • Shoulder dislocations
  • Knee and ankle sprains
  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears
  • Face and head injuries


  • Wear proper equipment, such as helmets, face guards and mouth guards for boys and protective goggles and mouth guards for girls.
  • Start conditioning and strength training before the season starts. 


Common injuries

  • Sprains and strains, usually in the ankle or knee
  • Shin splints
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • ACL tears
  • Concussions, usually caused by player collisions


  • Condition the body before the season starts.
  • Wear proper equipment, including shin guards and cleats.
  • Use proper playing techniques, particularly for “heading” the ball. 
  • Know and enforce the rules of the game.
  • Try an ACL injury prevention program, with specialized exercises and activities to improve jumping and cutting techniques. 


Common injuries

  • Stress fractures
  • Shin splints
  • Sprains and strains, particularly to the knees and ankles


  • Start training before the season begins.
  • Find a shoe with the proper fit and comfort. A good coach or salesperson at a running specialty store can help. 


Common injuries

  • Back problems
  • Elbow and shoulder pain (less common)


  • Strengthen the core muscles to provide better back support.
  • Develop proper swing techniques.

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