Let's Help Reduce Injuries in Youth Athletes

Sports Injury Risk Screening:  What is it and why does my child need it?

Sports medicine for the youth athlete is all too often, a vicious cycle; 

·      The athlete gets injured and sees his or her physician. 

·      The physician refers to physical therapy, recommends rest, or-in the worst cases-refers for surgical consult. 

·      The athlete recovers and returns to sports.

·      The cycle repeats; injury, doctor’s office, recovery, return to sport.

 But there is a better way forward.

 Youth Sports Injury Prevention:

Some of these injuries are difficult to avoid; contact injuries or falls for example.  But many of these injuries to youth athletes are overuse or non-contact injuries.   Overuse injuries account for nearly half of all sports injuries to middle and high school aged athletes.  Non-contact injuries have been reported as high as 36% in college athletes, many of these being ankle injuries and ACL injuries.  When you consider that over 5.5 million kids play sports in the US each year these numbers are staggering. 

The good news is that the likelihood of overuse or non-contact injury can be significantly reduced with proper assessment and training.  Deficits with balance and lack ability to properly perform fundamental movements has shown to accurately predict injuries in youth and college athletes.  Training with proper exercises to address these deficits has shown to improve evaluation, scores in soccer and football players thereby reducing their likelihood for injury.

What Have We Been Doing to Prevent Sports Injuries?

For years athletes have received pre-participation exams (PPEs) by their doctor prior to participating in sports.  High school’s require a physical or they will not let the athlete play.  There are baseline standards for cardiac health and neurologic function to allow for athletes to participate in sports, why do we not do the same for the musculoskeletal system?  Musculoskeletal problems are the 2nd leading cause of disability in the world yet all that typically goes into the musculoskeletal portion of a PPE are quick screens of joint range of motion and pain. 

The two options we have had for youth athletes are to take what we get during the PPE or extensive injury risk screening programs.  These can take up to 4 hours to complete and can cost hundreds of dollars making them prohibitive for most from a time and money standpoint.  What about a quick and cost effective option to musculoskeletal screening that has shown to reduce the likelihood for injury?

A New Approach to Sports Injury Prevention

Physical therapists are experts in assessment and treatment of the musculoskeletal system.  Testing programs such as move2perform provide us with an objective, reliable testing system that can be completed in a timely and cost effective manner.  This program looks at dynamic balance with the y-balance testing system and fundamental movement capacity with the Functional Movement Screen to help identify and address deficits prior to injury.  Proper assessment and adherence to neuromuscular training programs has shown to decrease injury in youth athletes.

Despite these findings injury risk screening is often met with skepticism by both coaches and parents.  Parents are willing to spend whatever it takes in time and money after their child is injured to ensure full recovery, but are unwilling to spend the roughly 20 minutes and minimal cost of testing to help prevent injury.  The biggest predictor of future injury is previous injury; once the athlete is injured it is too late.




At Complete Game Physical Therapy we are working to educate parents and coaches as to the importance of injury risk screening and help break the vicious cycle for youth athletes.  We offer injury risk screening, provide seminars on injury prevention and will use this blog to provide readers with practical ways to reduce likelihood of injury.   With our injury risk screening program we look to help reduce the likelihood of youth sports injury for schools, youth sports organizations and individuals.  Contact us for more information on how you can get your athlete screened. 


For more information on youth sports statistics please visit stopsportsinjuries.org and for more information on the research that has gone into move2perform please visit move2perform.com.


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