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Sports Injuries

Kids love playing sports—so much so that over 21 million children in the US between ages 6 and 17 play an organized sport. And even more play sports on their own, during recess, after school, etc.


With all of that activity, it’s no surprise that there are millions of sports-related injuries each year. While some are minor, many are serious—landing almost 3 million US children in the emergency room every year for sports or recreation-related injuries.  


Unfortunately, since there are so many sports, there are also many ways children can hurt themselves.

Some of the most common types of injuries include:

Sprains and strains

Ligaments are bands of tissue that connect two or more bones at a joint, and stop a joint from moving too much. When a ligament is injured, it is called a sprain. Ankle sprains are the most common sprains—in fact, they’re the most common sports injury.

A strain is similar to a sprain—it occurs when there is a tissue injury. However, a strain means there is damage to a muscle or tendon (the cord of tissue that connects muscles and bones).

Growth plate injuries

Children and adolescents have growth plates—areas of tissue that develop at the ends of long bones (e.g., fingers and toes, forearm, thigh bone). Once a child finishes growing, the growth plate is replaced by solid bone.

Most growth plate injuries affect the knee, heel, shoulder, or elbow.

Repetitive motion or overuse injuries

If a child is constantly moving a part of the body—by, for example, pitching a baseball, swinging a tennis racket, or running cross-country—he may develop a repetitive motion or overuse injury.

Stress fractures and tendinitis are two of the most common types of repetitive or overuse. A stress fracture is a small crack or weak spot in a bone. Tendinitis occurs when one or more tendons becomes irritated or inflamed.  


A fracture is a broken bone. Most fractures are in the arms and legs, and a child is most likely to have a fracture in his wrist, forearm, or right above the elbow.



Symptoms vary greatly, depending on the type and severity of the injury. A child may notice pain, tenderness, swelling, or bruising around the injury. In more severe cases, a bone or limb might appear to be out of place.

Sometimes, a child may also have limited functioning due to an injury. For example, a sprained ankle could make it hard for him to walk, or a broken wrist could make it difficult to do something simple, like grasp a pencil.


There are many reasons that a child could get a sports injury. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Trauma or a blow (e.g., falling, getting hit with a ball)
  • Repetitive motion or overuse
  • Poor training methods
  • Not enough warm-up or cool-down exercises


For smaller injuries, a physical exam might be enough to make a diagnosis. But often, a physician will want to take imaging tests, like X-rays or computed tomography (CT) scans. This will give her a better idea of the type and severity of the injury so that she can develop the right treatment plan.



Kids will be kids—which means sports injuries aren’t always preventable. But with a little sports safety, a child may be able to lower her risk of getting injured during play. Protective sports gear, well-fitting shoes, good hydration, and proper warm-up and cool-down exercises can go a long way toward keeping a child safe.  

The OIC Sports Injuries Team

At OIC, the sports team includes a wide range of specialists at two different locations (Downtown and Santa Monica) to treat your child.  

Our team includes four pediatric orthopaedic surgeons (one of whom holds dual training and accreditation in pediatric orthopaedic surgery and orthopaedic sports medicine), 1 non-operative sports medicine physician with training and accredation in sports medicine, 6 nurse practitioners, medical assistants, and a network of physical therapists convenient to both locations.

Our goal at OIC is to help each child return to his or her sport activities as quickly and safely as possible with the shortest possible recovery time.