High School Sports Injuries

Student Athlete Sports Medicine

Annually, countless teenagers take part in high school athletics. An injury to a high school athlete can be quite a significant letdown for the teenager, the family, and the coaches. The push to play can lead to decisions that can lead to further injury with prolonged effects. High school sports injuries can cause problems that require surgery as an adult, and may result in arthritis down the line.

Whenever a sports injury occurs, it is important to quickly seek proper treatment. To ensure the best possible recovery, athletes, coaches, and parents must conform to safe guidelines for returning to the game. That's the reason Dr. Weaver of Audrain Orthopaedics provides the following tips for you concerning how to understand and deal with high school sports injuries if you live in Mexico, Missouri or the surrounding Central Missouri area.

The Adolescent Athlete

Teenage athletes are injured at about the same rate as professional athletes, but injuries that affect high school athletes are sometimes different from those that affect adult athletes. This is largely because high school athletes are usually still growing.

Growth is typically uneven: Bones develop first, which pulls at tight muscle tissue and tendons. This irregular growth pattern makes younger athletes more vulnerable to muscle, tendon, and growth plate injuries.

Kinds of High School Sports Injuries

Injuries among young athletes fall into two basic categories: overuse injuries and acute injuries. Both types include injuries to the soft tissues (muscles and ligaments) and bones.

Acute Injuries

Acute injuries are caused by a quick trauma. Examples of trauma include collisions with obstacles on the field or between players. Prevalent acute injuries among young athletes include contusions (bruises), sprains (a partial or total tear of a ligament), strains (a partial or total tear of a muscle or tendon), and fractures.

Overuse Injuries

Not all the injuries are caused by a single, sudden twist, fall, or collision. Overuse injuries manifest progressively over time, whenever an athletic activity is repeated so frequently, parts of the body don't have enough time to heal between playing.

Overuse injuries can affect muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, and growth plates. For instance, overhand pitching in baseball can be linked to injuries to the elbow. Swimming is frequently associated with injuries to the shoulder. Gymnastics and cheerleading are two prevalent activities connected with injuries to the wrist and elbow.

Stress fractures are another typical overuse injury in younger athletes. Bone is in a consistent state of turnover—a process known as remodeling. New bone develops and takes the place of older bone. If an athlete's activity is too great, the breakdown of older bone takes place rapidly, and the body can't make new bone quick enough to replace it. As a result, the bone is weakened and stress fractures may occur—most often in the shinbone and bones of the feet.

Catastrophic Sports Injuries

Many sports, specifically contact sports, have inherent dangers that place younger athletes at special risk for serious injuries. In spite of rigorous training and proper safety equipment, kids are at risk for serious injuries to the neck and head with harm to the brain or spinal cord.

Catastrophic injuries have been reported in numerous sports, such as ice hockey, wrestling, football, swimming, soccer, pole vaulting, cheerleading, and gymnastics. It is important for coaches, parents, and athletes to understand the guidelines and regulations developed for each sport to avoid head and neck injury.


Concussions are mild traumatic brain injuries. They are caused by a blow to the head or body that results in the brain moving rapidly to and fro inside the skull.

Although some sports have higher instances of concussion—such as football, ice hockey, and soccer—concussions can occur in any sport or recreational activity.

In 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that young athletes with concussions be evaluated and cleared by a doctor prior to returning to sports. The American Academy of Neurology released a comparable statement, and stressed that doctors who clear athletes for return to sports should be competent in managing and assessing sports concussions.

Growth Plate Injuries

Growth plates are areas of developing cartilage tissue near the ends of long bones. Whenever a child becomes full-grown, the growth plates harden into solid bone.

Because growth plates are the final portion of bones to solidify (ossify), they're at risk of fracture. Growth plates regulate and help in determining the length and shape of adult bone, therefore, injuries to the growth plate can lead to disturbances to bone growth and bone disfigurement.

Growth plate injuries arise most often in contact sports like football or basketball and in high impact sports like gymnastics.

Prompt Medical Attention

Whether an injury is acute or due to overuse, a high school athlete in Mexico, Moberly, or Columbia, MO who develops a symptom that persists or that affects his or her athletic performance should be examined by a doctor. Untreated injuries could lead to lasting damage or disability.

Some athletes may understate their symptoms in order to continue playing. Coaches and parents should know the more common signs of injury, like pain with activity, variations in form or technique, pain at night, and reduced interest in practice.

Arthroscopic Surgery orthopaedic surgery mexico missouri wrist injury sports injuryDoctor Examination

In the examination, your physician will inquire about how the injury took place, the symptoms, and will discuss the athlete's medical history. During the physician examination, the doctor will check for points of tenderness, and range of motion.

As appropriate, the physician may encourage imaging tests, such as x-rays or other tests, to evaluate the bones and soft tissues.


Treatment will depend upon the severity of the injury, and may include a combination of physical therapy, strengthening exercises, and bracing. Worse injuries may necessitate surgery.

Return to Play

A player's injury needs to be completely healed before he returns to sports activity.

•   In the event of a joint problem, the athlete should have no pain, no swelling, complete range of motion, and normal strength.

•   In the event of concussion, the player must have no symptoms at rest or with exercise, and ought to be cleared by the correct medical provider.

Media stories about the early return to competition by pro athletes following injury produce the impression that any athlete with adequate treatment can go back to play at the same ability level, or even better.

It's important for players, parents, and coaches to appreciate that depending on the type of injury and treatment needed, the young athlete may not be able to return to the game at the same level of play—no matter how much effort is put into injury rehabilitation.


Many high school sports injuries can be avoided through correct conditioning, training, and equipment.

High school athletes require sport specific training to avoid injury. Lots of injuries can be prevented with regular conditioning that starts prior to the formal sports season. Accidents often occur whenever players suddenly raise the duration, intensity, or frequency of their activity. Younger athletes who are out of shape at the beginning of the season should gradually increase activity levels and slowly build back up to a greater fitness level.

Using proper technique for the position being played is also key to avoiding injury. Appropriate equipment—from the appropriate shoes to safety gear—is important. Additionally, injuries can be prevented when athletes understand and stick to the rules of the game, and show good sportsmanship.

Since many younger athletes are focusing on just one sport and are training all year, doctors are seeing an increase in overuse injuries. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has joined with STOP Sports Injuries to help teach parents, coaches, and athletes about ways to avoid overuse injuries. Specific tips to avoid overuse injuries include:

•   Limit the number of teams in which your child is playing in a single season. Athletes who play on more than one team are particularly at risk for overuse injuries.

•   Do not permit your child to play a single sport year-round—taking regular breaks and playing other sports is essential to skill development and injury prevention.

If you're in the Mid-MO area and have any other questions regarding high school sports injuries, get a hold of Dr. Weaver of Audrain Orthopaedics today.

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