Children's Health

Sports Injuries Are Preventable

Protection and Common Sense Result in Fewer Injuries As Student Athletes Begin to Hit the Field

Participation in sports is a valuable experience for children. According to sports medicine physicians and orthopedic surgeons at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, knowing the causes and risks of injuries can help make athletics a positive experience for children.

“Children are susceptible to sports injuries for a variety of reasons,” said Jeff Cassidy, MD, orthopedics, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “Young children are less coordinated and have slower reaction times because they are still growing and developing. There can also be differences in height and weight between children of the same age that place smaller children at greater risk of injury.”

Parents can help prevent their children from being injured by following a few simple guidelines.

Proper Equipment

Children should use well-fitting and correct size equipment and safety gear. Helmets should be worn for baseball, softball, biking, in-line skating, skateboarding, hockey and lacrosse. Protective eyewear is encouraged for all sports involving racquets or sticks. To minimize the risk of injury, equipment should be properly maintained and checked regularly to ensure it’s working correctly.


Check playing fields to ensure they are free from holes and ruts that might cause athletes to trip or fall. If the sport involves high-impact running, such as basketball or cross country, softer surfaces such as running on grass or playing basketball on wooden courts will lessen the risk of overuse injuries.

Supervision and Commitment to Safety

The coach should have training in first aid and CPR. In addition, the coach’s philosophy should promote the players’ safety and well-being. Be skeptical of a coach with a win-at-all-costs attitude who may encourage children to play through injuries. Be sure the coach enforces the rules of the game, requires proper equipment and always encourages good sportsmanship.


Children should adequately stretch and warm up before practices and games, and then spend equal time cooling down afterward. Muscles not properly primed are more susceptible to injury. Children can get injured while playing sports despite all precautionary measures.

Acute injuries occur suddenly and are usually associated with some form of trauma. They may occur because of a lack of proper equipment such as eye injuries in basketball and racquet sports when protective eyewear isn’t worn. Other injuries are common to specific sports, such as broken ankles from sliding into immobile bases in baseball and softball or knee injuries in football or soccer.

Overuse injuries occur from repetitive actions that put too much stress on the bones and muscles. These injuries are problematic in children because of the effect they may have on bone growth. Any child who plays sports can develop overuse injuries, such as knee or shoulder pain and shin splints. Keep in mind the more time your child spends in one sport, the more likely an overuse injury will occur. Foot, leg and knee pain may be caused by poor fitting or worn out footwear. A good rule of thumb is to replace footwear at the end of a season.

“Some sports medicine specialists take a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach,” added Cassidy. “If an injury appears to affect basic functioning in any way-your child can’t bend a finger or is limping-they should be examined immediately and first aid administered if appropriate. If a child continues to experience pain, it’s the body’s way of saying there’s a problem. Have the child examined by your family doctor or pediatrician who can then determine whether it’s necessary to see a specialist. If the injury seems to be more serious, or if your child has a change of consciousness, take them to the nearest emergency department.” As hard as it may be for athletes, refraining from play following an injury is important to prevent long-term damage.

“Rest, medication and physical therapy may all be options for you and your child’s sports medicine specialist to consider,” added Cassidy. “Proper protection and common sense can result in fewer sports-related injuries. Following a few simple guidelines can only enhance you children’s athletic experience and keep your children safe.”

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is West Michigan’s largest children’s hospital, serving children and families throughout a 37-county region. A teaching hospital, it includes more than 150 pediatric specialty physicians uniquely skilled in providing medical and surgical care to children in more than 40 pediatric specialties. The hospital cares for more than 7,500 inpatients and 150,000 outpatients annually. Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is committed to caring for children and families with compassion, excellence and innovation. Visit for more information.