Parents: Signs of Injury or Concussion to Watch for in Youth

Physical therapists help ensure injuries heal quickly and completely.

Physical therapists help ensure injuries heal quickly and completely.

As student-athletes head back to the practice fields late this summer, injuries are going to happen. Despite concerted efforts by physical therapists and others to reduce and prevent sports injuries, it’s simply impossible to eliminate them from all sports and recreational activities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 30 million children and adolescents in the U.S. participate in youth sports. The high school-aged students alone within this group account for approximately 2 million injuries and 500,000 doctor visits each year. Of those under the age of 14, 3.5 million receive medical treatment for sports injuries.

To ensure injuries are diagnosed and treated quickly, before they worsen, it’s paramount that parents and guardians identify the early signs of possible injury– ailments that aren’t always obvious during practice or competition, but which may manifest later on at home.

"Injuries from youth sports are almost impossible to avoid..." states a flyer for parents created by STOP Sports Injuries, a youth injury prevention organization initiated by the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) in 2007. "Most children will let you know when they are hurt, but for those kids who try to tough it out, parents and caregivers should watch for signs of injury."

This not only includes signs of musculoskeletal injuries such as possible sprains, tears and breaks, but also signs of a concussion–an ailment that's becoming increasingly common in youth sports and activities.

"The rates at which concussions are rising may in part be due to the rise in youth sports participation and also better diagnostic skills/training for coaches and sports medicine professionals," said Alan L. Zhang, MD, from the University of California San Francisco Medical Center and lead author of a concussion study recently presented to the AOSSM. "The trend is alarming, however, and the youth population should definitely be prioritized for ongoing work in concussion diagnosis, education, treatment and prevention."

  • Signs for parents to watch out for include:
  • Headaches, lightheadedness or dizziness, which may indicate a concussion.
  • Limping or an appearance of pain when putting weight on and/or using a particular part of the body.
  • Difficulty standing, sitting, stepping or moving around normally.
  • Tingling, numbness or weakness in the limbs, fingers or toes.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Sharp pain during practice, games or any physical activity.

Should a parent identify one or more of these signs, he or she should take their child in to a physical therapist or  physician for a thorough sports injury evaluation.

"Young athletes are not miniature adults," Butch Doughit, a physician with Northeast Orthopedics in New York, said during a 2013 STOP Sports Injuries forum for parents and coaches. "They're still growing. The old idea of no pain, no gain does not apply with a child. Give them time to build back up again. Talk to your kids and listen to them."

In many cases, visiting a physical therapist can be an ideal starting point for such evaluations. The physical therapists at Compass Physical Therapy are trained and equipped to provide sports injury assessments for athletes of all ages. and will triage the injury and, if necessary, provide direction if further diagnosis and treatment is necessary. We can also help identify muscle imbalances and prescribe specific exercises to help improve and maximize your child’s physical performance.

Should your child experience a concussion,  we are specially trained to help them recover and determine when it is safe to return to sport or activity. Concussion treatment could include exercises for vision, balance, cardio and strengthening. We also work with other healthcare providers as needed to provide a full concussion team for your child including vision therapists, the Concussion Clinic, school counselors and speech/cognitive therapists. Have more questions about how physical therapy can keep your family active? Contact our team today!


East Alabama Blog: Communication, common sense the key to preventing youth sports injuries, doctors say

STOP Sports Injuries: How to Prevent and Spot Overuse Injuries in Kids

AOSSM: Concussions on the rise for adolescents, researchers say

The Post and Courier: Sobering statistics about youth sports and injuries

The Huffington Post: Parents Need to Be Aware of the Epidemic of Sports Injuries Among Young Athletes Preventing Overuse Injuries

STOP Sports Injuries: Youth Sports Injuries Statistics