Most dangerous sports for kids

The 5 most dangerous sports for boys

Because they are fun and good for them, parents often forget how dangerous sports can be for their kids. Every year, more than 135,000 children — from 5 to 18 — nationwide find themselves in emergency rooms because of sports-related injuries. The most common diagnosis? Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), which are caused by blows or jolts to the head. They can disrupt the normal function of the brain. While TBIs can range from mild to severe, all should be taken seriously. The majority of TBIs are concussions, which is when the brain moves inside the skull and can even bang against the skull bone. This cerebral trauma can cause confusion, blurred vision, and memory loss. While team sports provide a wealth of emotional, social, and physical benefits for kids, it’s important to provide your young athlete with the proper protective gear and teach him to follow game regulations in order to avoid brain trauma and other serious injuries. These five team sports are the most likely to cause injury in young players.

  1. With about one million high schoolers in organized play, football has long been America’s most popular sport — and its most dangerous. This collision sport’s safety record is not good, with nearly twice the injuries of basketball — our country’s second most popular sport. High school football players are most at risk. Primarily because of their inexperience and smaller stature, high schoolers are twice as likely to be injured as college players.

    But high school athletes aren’t the only ones getting hurt. The numbers for young players is sobering: It’s estimated that every year, doctors treat 389,000 musculoskeletal injuries in players ages five to 14. Recent studies have also revealed an epidemic of extensive neck and head injuries, including concussions and football-related TBIs, which can lead to memory problems, concentration issues, speech impediments, and headaches.

  2. Is your son a budding Steph Curry? Then make sure he stretches before practicing those jump shots and layups because this sport can spur serious strains and sprains in the lower (and upper) extremities. In fact, one study showed that almost a quarter of all basketball-related injuries involve the ankle.

    Basketball is one of the only sports in which male ball players are more likely to be hospitalized than their female counterparts. Of the more than 375,000 basketball injuries that require visits to the emergency room every year, 75 percent are sustained by adolescent boys. What’s more, limbs and ligaments are not the sole concern: basketball-related TBIs have increased 70 percent in the past 10 years.

  3. Over the past 30 years, participation in high school soccer has increased five times over — and this intensely physical sport only shows signs of increasing in popularity. But future Pelés and Beckhams would do well to proceed with some caution, with high school players sustaining some 400,000 injuries a year. Soccer-playing boys are at highest risk for ankle sprains as well as thigh and upper leg strains. Additionally, knee injuries — that can end a budding career — account for nearly a third of all soccer-related surgeries. But the body part yet again at great risk? Not surprisingly, the brain. Approximately two out of three soccer injuries that came from boys heading the ball were classified as concussions.

  4. Baseball

    America’s beloved national pastime has more contact injuries than one would expect. The majority of players’ injuries are due to contact with a ball, bat, or another player. Though the rate of baseball injuries has decreased over the past 10 years, one study shows that the severity of injuries is greater for boys.

    Of the injuries caused by being hit by a batted ball, four in 10 caused fractures, lacerations, or concussions. There are even reports of sustaining a coma from a batted ball and hemorrhaging in the brain after being hit by a bat. (The reason? Failing to wear the protective gear required by the fielding team.) Baseball also sees the most over-use injuries. Boys who start in Little League report the highest injury rate in elbows, mostly due to repetitive pitching and improper technique.

  5. Lacrosse is the fastest-growing high school sport in the nation. In the last few years, varsity lacrosse teams have increased 200 percent nationwide. As its popularity has grown, so has its injured lists. This collision sport is responsible for injuries in ankles, upper legs, and knees. An estimated one in every 10 injuries sustained during lacrosse games and practices is classified a concussion — the sport’s most common above-the-waist injury. Most worrisome, however, is the rising rate of commotio cordis in teenage male lacrosse players, in which a nonpenetrating blow to the chest from a shot causes ventricular fibrillation, which can result in death despite an otherwise healthy heart.

Preventing injuries

These five team sports are not the only ones that put players at risk for TBIs and other serious injuries. Many other kids’ sports, including gymnastics and ice hockey, also have high concussion rates. To help protect your child from injury, follow the safety tips at And always insist on proper protective gear, especially during practice. Some 62 percent of sports-related injuries occur during practice, yet only one out of three parents reports taking game-day safety precautions for practice.

See the list of the 5 most dangerous sports for girls.

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5 Of The Most Dangerous Sports For Kids, Because You’ll Want To Be Careful

Playing sports is beneficial to kids in so many ways: It keeps them active, it teaches them important lessons about teamwork and accomplishing goals, it builds friendships, and it instills a mental toughness that’s crucial to success well beyond the field or court. But, like all things in life, participating in competitive sports comes with inherent risks that certainly merit specific safety considerations. In no particular order, here are four of the most dangerous sports for kids.

Of course, the fact that sports can pose a threat of injury to young players should not deter parents from enrolling them. Rather, knowing which are among the ones that lead to the most harm can help families make informed decisions and start understanding strategies to stay safe. Those can range from making sure kids are hydrated and have proper gear to allowing them to sit out if they feel tired or sick to ensuring that coaches know both first aid and CPR in case of emergency, according to Reader’s Digest.

Different precautions apply to different sports, so parents should talk to experts and do their own research depending on which sports their children decide on. Still, here’s a list of sports that could potentially pose more problems than others.



According to, 389,000 young football players between the ages of 5 and 14 are treated for musculoskeletal injuries each year. The very real possibility of sustaining an injury that could lead to a concussion in this contact sport is also a reason that it’s considered especially dangerous. And The Atlantic reported that even among those 8- to 13-year-olds who don’t show signs of concussions present evidence of traumatic brain injuries as a result of playing.



Where there is a football game going on — no matter the age of the players — there is more than likely a cheerleading squad or two on the sidelines. But according to the American Grandparents Association, this is the most risky sport for kids, surpassing even football. In fact, cheerleaders are 18 times more likely get hurt than football players, the association reported. They frequently injure their wrists, shoulders, ankles, and backs.


According to NerdWallet, USA Hockey permits kids to “check” their opponents starting when they are just 11 years old. The practice of checking is basically a full-body slam to defensively block the player with the puck, and it can result in real injuries that often land players in the hospital. “Boys who play ice hockey in leagues that allow body checking are two to three times more the likely to suffer serious injuries and concussions compared to boys in non-checking programs,” a study from the American Academy of Pediatrics found.


Andrew Burton/Getty Images News/Getty Images

A 2012 Loyola University study named basketball the most dangerous sport for kids, reporting that the sport had sent more than 500,000 players to the hospital with injuries in just one year. A common injury is damage to the ACL. And high school basketball coach David Hess told ABC News that other frequent injuries on the court include torn ligaments, jammed fingers and knee injuries. “I would say ankle occur most in basketball contact with a lot of jumping,” he siad.


Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

In 2016, The Los Angeles Times reported that soccer had been increasing in popularity in recent years — and the numbers of injuries that kids sustain while playing had risen, too. More than 3 million young soccer players ended up in the emergency room between 1990 an 2014. Injuries sustained during play often include strains and sprains, fractures, soft-tissue injuries, and even concussions. Concussion-related injuries often stem from the practice of heading the ball, so the U.S. Soccer Federation now recommends that kids who are 10 years old or younger avoid it until they’re a bit older. It also warns that 11- to 13-year-olds should do so only sparingly.

Of course, the information in this list is not comprehensive, and it (alone) should not deter parents from exploring the possibility of signing kids up to play. Instead, they should gather as much information as possible on the pros and cons of all sports available to kids and make decisions accordingly.

Top 10 Most Dangerous Sports for Kids


(Comstock Images)

The top sport for sending kids to the emergency room, according to a Loyola University Study based on data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, is basketball.

Turns out, kids who play basketball at school or even in the driveway are at risk of the same knee injuries that derail NBA careers. The good news is most injuries can be prevented with proper training and supervision. And catastrophic injuries in kids’ sports are extremely rare.

There are other surprises on Loyola’s top ten list besides basketball and even more shocking, some sports that are traditionally considered dangerous (hockey, anyone?) are notably absent from the list.

  • Basketball – More than half a million kids went to the ER in just one year with injuries sustained playing hoops. Damage to the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is a common injury and any sport involving twisting, jumping, pivoting, squatting, or making sudden stops puts kids at risk. Proper coaching is a must.
  • Bicycling – This favorite pastime sends more kids to the ER than football. Wearing a helmet greatly reduces risk as does educating children about the dangers of riding in traffic.
  • Football – This sport sends approximately 400-thousand kids to the ER annually. Sports injury statistics vary based on methodology, and the Center for Injury Research and Policy found football to be the leading cause of sports-related injuries among kids.
  • Soccer – The ball is soft, but the sport can be dangerous. One culprit is portable soccer goals, which should be securely anchored to the ground.
  • Baseball – Today’s kids train hard and hit the ball hard. Children should wear proper protective gear and be taught how to safely slide into bases and other fundamentals. With all warm-weather sports, heat exhaustion is also a threat.
  • Skateboarding – They don’t call extreme sports “extreme” for nothing. The National Safety Council recommends the use of protective gear, such as closed, slip-resistant shoes, helmets, and specially designed padding for elbows, knees, and hands.
  • Trampoline – It’s not really a sport—or is it? Newer models with nets to keep kids from falling off are safer. Backyard trampolines are for jumping, not stunts. More adventurous kids need a qualified trainer and a gym.
  • Softball – If a fast-traveling baseball can cause serious injury, so can a fast-traveling softball.
  • Swimming and Diving – Anytime you mix kids and water, you have potential for an injury. Head and spinal cord injuries are a risk when kids are diving. Make sure kids know how deep the water is and that all pools, lakes, and beaches have qualified lifeguards.
  • Horseback riding – A British study found serious head and spinal injuries were most common when jumping.

Other sports that often prompt ER visits: weightlifting, volleyball, golf, roller skating, wrestling, gymnastics, inline skating, tennis, and track and field. One sport that didn’t make the list: cheerleading. The Consumer Product Safety Commission names this the most injury-prone sport for girls. A recent Ohio State University study identified gymnastics as the most dangerous sport for girls, with nearly 27-thousand gymnasts hospitalized each year. The deadliest sport: riding an all-terrain vehicle. There were 740 deaths in 2003, and one-third of those were kids under sixteen, according to the safety agency.

With the right training, supervision, and equipment, most sports can be considered safe for children. Parents of kids in extreme sports point out that danger is all around us, and you can’t raise your child in a bubble. I concur—in theory. I’m trying to adopt a mellow mama attitude, but I think you should minimize risk when possible. The takeaway message for me is that even seemingly safe sports like soccer and golf can cause injury, but most of those injuries are survivable and preventable. Still, I may introduce my daughter to croquet.

I grew up playing sports all my life, and I’ll be the first one to tell you that physical extracurricular activities are extremely beneficial for kids of all ages. However, as a personal injury lawyer, I’m also all too familiar with traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and other serious injuries that can happen to kids playing sports (especially the most dangerous sports for kids). Because of this, I understand why some parents do not wish to let their children engage in certain sports as many of them can be rough and even dangerous.

There are numerous sports that your children can play that give them the physical activity they need without much risk of incurring serious injuries. (go here for injury prevention tips) Below are three of the safest sports for kids to play as well as three of the most dangerous sports for children to be involved in.

This article is written by Scott D. Grossman
For more on this topic, check out the full Sports collection

Safest Sports For Kids

Tennis – Safe Sport for Kids

Tennis is one of the safest sports for both boys and girls to learn. It is demanding both physically and mentally, and will keep children fit with a minimal risk of injury. It teaches children to develop strength, agility, and speed. And it can also be played either individually, or on a doubles teams.

In order to avoid injuries such as tennis elbow, it is important for a player to learn proper stretches and warm up techniques. Ideally when playing tennis, it’s best to use a proper pair of court shoes, or at least cross-trainers. This allows for quick changes in direction, and also supports the ankle.

Golf – Safe Sport for Kids

Golf is a great option for people of all ages – not just retired adults. It may be deemed an individual sport, but it is also a very social activity that can promote teamwork. Apart from allowing your children plenty of time outdoors, the sport also develops concentration, patience, and focus.

The risk of injury from playing golf is very low. Of course, improper methods can lead to tendonitis, or pain in the wrists, hands and shoulders. Children should warm up before playing, and should always stay hydrated.

Swimming – Safe Sport for Kids

Swimming is one of the most popular sports in high school for both genders, and provides a wonderful overall physical workout. Whether for recreation or for competitive swimming, pool time is generally supervised, and is one of the safer sports that children can participate in. Parents can also have peace of mind knowing that their children are equipped with swimming skills. This is very helpful for if they ever find themselves (or someone else) in an emergency situation while in a swimming pool, lake or other body of water.

To avoid swimming injuries, children should stretch before getting in the pool. They should use good stroke techniques, and make use of rest periods to recover. More importantly, ensure your child only swims when supervised.

Check out Sports for Kids – A Look At The Safest Sports By Age for a more in depth look at the safest sports broken down by age group.

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Most Dangerous Kids Sports

Football – Dangerous Sport for Kids

Football is the most popular sport in America, as well as the most dangerous one. High school football players are particularly at risk of injuries compared to college players due to their inexperience and smaller stature. Though helmets offer players some form of protection, no helmet truly prevents concussions and other head injuries.

Studies show that 80 percent of concussions that kids obtain from playing sports are from football. Repeated hits to the head can lead to a progressive degeneration of the brain tissue known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which can result in problems such as confusion, memory loss, impulse control, and impaired judgement.

Soccer – Dangerous Sport for Kids

Soccer is showing signs of increasing popularity, with participation in high school soccer increasing five times over in the last 30 years. It is an intensely physical and hence a dangerous sport. In fact, high school soccer players sustain roughly 400,000 injuries each year.

Knee injuries comprise nearly a third of all soccer-related surgeries. Soccer playing boys are at the greatest risk for sustaining ankle sprains, and upper leg and thigh strains. Soccer playing girls, on the other hand, are more at risk for neurological injuries due to their necks not being strong enough to ‘head’ the ball. Not surprisingly, the brain is the body part to be most at risk in this sport. A study published by Columbus, Ohio’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital showed that 8.2 of sports concussions result from soccer.

Basketball – Dangerous Sport for Kids

Basketball is the second most popular sport in the country, and a sport with the greatest participation from both boys and girls ages 6 to 17. It may not be a contact sport, but it can also be a very dangerous sport for kids – whether playing on the local park court or in an organized league. Every year, over 200,000 basketball-related injuries occur in kids below 15 years of age, requiring treatment in hospital emergency rooms.

Players are prone to falls when spending time on the court. The most commonly injured sites are ankles and knees, followed by the lower back, hand, and wrist. Major basketball injuries include ankle sprains, strains, fractures, and ACL tears. Basketball is also a sport with the highest rate of dental injury due to the complete lack of protection for players on the court. Eye injuries also commonly occur due to players being hit by other players’ elbows and fingers.

Shari and her husband were both collegiate athletes and discuss the life lessons they learned through their sports experiences


While it is perfectly acceptable for your children to gravitate towards activities categorized under the most dangerous sports for kids such as football, basketball and soccer, it is important to be aware of the potential physical dangers that such sports can bring. When sports are played correctly, they can help your child live a happy and active lifestyle. Try these four tips from Dr. Michael to help your athlete prevent an injury

Find out what you need to know before registering your child for a new activity. Also, check out 10 reasons that kids should play sports

For more on this topic, check out the full Sports collection

Featured Contributor: Scott D. Grossman

Scott D. Grossman is a veteran New Jersey accident lawyer. When he isn’t lawyering, Scott can be found spending time with his family or weightlifting in his decked out basement home gym.

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Expert parenting advice & resources from Adore Them

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As a parent, you want nothing more than to keep your kids safe from harm, but you can only go so far. At some point, you have to let them run and play, knowing they will probably get hurt eventually. But what they play, specifically when it comes to sports, may influence how often and how badly they get injured.

Which activities are most likely to land your kids in the hospital? NerdWallet analyzed five years of data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System to determine the top activities that send children ages 5 to 14 to the emergency room.

While the No. 1 activity may be no surprise – the rough-and-tumble play of football sent the most kids to the emergency room – there are some startling trends occurring in the world of play and safety. Biking – which in the past perennially duked it out with football for dominance in sending children to the hospital – has seen a notable drop of 13% despite an increase in bike sales.

While communities have battled over the rights of skateboarders in parks and public places, the number of skateboarding injuries from 2007-2012 has dropped a whopping 44.4%. Other top activities seeing a drop in ER visits are trampoline-related injuries (-13.8%) and non-inline skating (-6.9%).

“From a practitioner standpoint, we don’t see as many injuries from these recreational activities as we once did,” Dr. Russell Petrie, a sports medicine orthopedist from Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Irvine, California, told NerdWallet. “One commonality is riding bikes, jumping on trampolines, and skateboarding still remains largely recreational; and with the exception of skateboarding, the professional sports opportunities and college scholarships are not available with these sports.”

That’s the good news. The bad news is one of the most popular recreational activity for kids in the summer has seen a 28.2% increase in hospital visits from 2007 to 2012: swimming.

Feeding the trend are more homeowners building private pools and whirlpools, says Ellyn Pollack, spokesperson for the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“And pools are the No. 1 cause of accidental deaths of children under the age of 5,” says Pollack.

“All the team sports that are cutting, pivoting and player-to-player contact have an increase in injuries,” Petrie said. “Furthermore, all of these sports have collegiate and professional implications for young athletes.

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“With the advent of year round sport, in Southern California, we have seen a rise of overuse injuries in certain sports. Football, basketball and soccer would lead that list,” Petrie added. “Thirty years ago, a specific sport last three or four months and then kids changed sport, now kids are playing sport year-round. This can overstress certain parts of the immature skeleton.”

Experts agree that the health benefits of physical activity far outweigh any remote chance your child will get injured. Still, it’s a reminder that when children play, they need to play safe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that half of all sports injuries in children are preventable.

Here’s a look at the top 11 activities that have sent children ages 5 to 14 to the hospital in recent years:

Measured by TV viewership, football is by far the most popular sport in America – 46 of the top 50 most watched sporting events in 2013 were NFL games. So it’s no surprise that football ranks at the top activity for children ER visits in 2012.

Still, the statistics belie a growing trend of children moving away from organized football in the wake of concerns about head injuries in professional football. From 2010 to 2012, Pop Football – the nation’s largest youth football program – saw a 9.5% drop in children participating in the program, according to ESPN. USA Football saw a 2011 drop of 6.7% of children ages 6 to 14 playing football.

Besides head injuries, ankle and knee ligament injuries such as ACL tears and shoulder dislocations are common reasons for an ER visit, Petrie said.

In 2007 and 2009, more children were sent to the hospital for bicycle-related incidents than any other activity, according to CPSC data. But the number of injuries has been steadily dropping in recent years, even as participation increased 5% from 2007-2012, according to the National Sporting Goods Association.

“Over the last 10 years there has been a push for greater helmet, wrist and knee protection with skateboarding and bicycles,” said Petrie, who said typical bike injuries he sees are clavicle and wrist fractures.

With its inclusion of both boys and girls in organized college and professional play, basketball leads the numbers for having the greatest participation of 6-to-17-year-olds. About 7 million American kids played in organized basketball leagues in 2012, according to a Sports and Fitness Industry Association/Physical Council Report.

More high schools have organized boy and girl basketball teams playing in leagues than any other sport, with about 17,500 high schools each, according to the National Federation of High School Associations.

Major injuries with basketball are often ankle sprains and fractures, as well as ACL tears in the knee, Petrie said.

According to a 2012 analysis by ESPN, youth baseball is the most popular organized sport for little athletes ages 6 to 8 and remains the second most popular organized sport behind basketball until high school. About 1.3 million children and teens participate each year in Amateur Softball Association Youth Leagues.

Repetitive arm stress and overuse are common injuries, experts say. Twenty percent of children ages 8 to 12, and 45% of those ages 13 to 14, will have arm pain during a baseball season, according to a 2009 American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons study.

With the World Cup starting this month, soccer will be put in the (albeit rare) national U.S. media spotlight. But the popularity of the sport has been feeding participation – and the number of injuries, experts say.

“If one looks at the popularity of MLS (Major League Soccer) in this country I suspect you will see a commensurate rise in injuries, not from a increased prevalence but an increase because more kids are playing more often,” Petrie said. “More total hours played of a sport increases absolute injury numbers.”

Ankle sprain and ACL injuries are common.

“In goalies, we will often see soft tissue shoulder injuries when goalies dive and finger injuries when the ball hits the hand,” Petrie said. Also common are fractures where tendon or ligaments get pulled off the pelvis of the dominant fracture side, he added.

Swimming is one of the most popular summer pastimes for youths – 36% of children between the ages of 7 and 17 go swimming at least six times a year, according to the CDC. So a 28.2% increase in swimming-related injuries should raise alarm bells. The NerdWallet analysis of 2007-2012 data mirrors results from a 2013 study from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which showed that the number of ER visits for children ages 7 to 17 increased by 30% from 1990 to 2008.

Hot summers, a growth in the number of private pools and the heavy migration of population toward coastal areas appear to be leading the trend. Ocean coastlines constitute only 10% of the area of the U.S., yet 39% of the U.S. population lives in a county adjacent to coastal areas in 2010, and that is expected to climb to 47% by 2020, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

To help reverse the trend, the CPSC is asking all adults and children to go to their website and sign its Pool Safely Pledge.

“Adults should always designate a pool watcher, should always have proper fencing and drain covers, learn CPR and make sure their children learn to swim,” said CPSC spokesperson Ellyn Pollack.

She also encourages people to take part in “the world’s largest swimming pool lesson” on June 20.

Trampolines have a long and controversial history in backyard play. Health groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics have long advised against their purchase because of spinal injury risks due to somersault and flip attempts. According to a recent study by Indiana University, there have been 1 million ER visits from 2002-2011 due to trampoline-related injuries, costing just over $1 billion in health care costs.

Study author Dr. Randall T. Loder thinks trampolines should be banned. “I think trampolines should not be allowed in backyards. It’s that simple,” he said in a recent interview. “It’s a significant public health problem.”

The average age of the injured was 9 years old, the study said.

“About 60% of the fractures were upper-extremity injuries, notably fingers, hands, forearms and elbows,” the study said. “Lower-extremity fractures most commonly were breaks in the lower leg — the tibia and fibula — and ankles … An estimated 2,807 spinal fractures were reported during the period studied.”

Manufacturers now advise users to only allow one child at a time on a trampoline – 75% of all injuries occur when there are two or more jumpers. Enclosures to prevent errant bounces onto the ground are now standard. And injuries, which peaked at 110,000 ER visits in 2004, have been on a long downward slide. The AAP attributes the decline, however, to declining trampoline sales rather than improved safety.

“Trampoline design changed with enclosed trampolines and awareness of different sized children on a trampoline, as a risk factor for injury has been better recognized,” Petrie at the Hoag Orthopedic Institute said. “I can’t remember the last time I saw a trampoline injury.”

Roller skating and ice skating have the longest history of any of the sports on this list. The first roller skate was introduced in 1760, following the long history of ice skating, which traces its history back some 3,000 years in modern-day Finland.

Roller skating has had its ups and downs – often following the trajectory of the U.S. economy, as a recent Atlantic article notes. The number of roller skaters has dropped to 13.35 million in 2012 from 19.74 million in 2007, according to website Statistica. Ice skating enjoys perennial popularity thanks to its Olympic and professional skating status, as well as its close cousin ice hockey (see No. 10 below).

Still, thanks to the decline of roller skating popularity, skating-related injuries are also down. Wrist, elbow and ankle injuries are most typical, according to the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Skateboarding has lost its cool.

The number of people who skateboard has dropped by 47% from 2007 to 2012, according to the National Sporting Goods Association. While that drop worries aficionados and skateboard manufacturers, it has brought a bright spot to the ER doctors and parents – the number of ER visits for skateboard-related injuries dropped 44% during the same time period.

Skateboard injuries are often wrist, knee and ankle injuries, Petrie said. Again, he believes the use of helmet, wrist, knee and elbow pads is further reducing the number of injuries doctors have seen recently.

Hockey is now the sixth most popular sport in the U.S., according to a recent Harris Poll, up from No. 11 in 1985. The National Hockey League – which only had four U.S. teams in 1967 – now has 23 in the U.S., including sunny climes like Los Angeles, Tampa Bay and Miami. Viewership of the NHL regular season on NBC reached record viewership this year.

So it’s no surprise that more kids are heading to the rink and coming off bruised and bumped. Youth participation has grown from 200,000 in 2000 to more than 350,000 in 2012, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Especially controversial is at what age children should be allowed to “check” opponents – full body defensive blocks of whomever controls the puck. USA Hockey allows checking starting at the 11-to-12-year-old Pee Wee League, but a recent AAP study recommends raising the age to 15.

“Boys who play ice hockey in leagues that allow body checking are two to three times more the likely to suffer serious injuries and concussions compared to boys in non-checking programs,” the AAP study says.

The growth in the number of volleyball-related injuries is a head-scratcher. Some key benchmark statistics show a rise in popularity in the sport – but nothing to match the 22.1% increase in ER visits for children ages 5 to 14, the second highest rise next to swimming.

Wholesale sales of volleyball sets of nets and balls climbed to $65 million in 2013 from $56 million in 2008, an increase of 16%, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. Participation in volleyball in high school has grown to more than 470,500 students from just under 445,000 in the 2007-08 school year – an increase of 5.8%, according to the National Federation of High School Associations.

Volleyball’s growth is fueled by popularity among girls.

In general, “there is a higher prevalence on certain knee ligament injuries in females compared to males,” Petrie said. “With increasing sports participation in the female population, one would expect some increase in injuries.”

Illustration and infographics by Brian Yee. Statistics from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Injury Surveillance System.

University of Michigan Health System

Youth Sports Safety Resources

What do I need to know about kids and sports injuries?
Playing sports is a great way for your child to stay fit and healthy, to learn about teamwork, make friends, and develop a sense of personal satisfaction. In addition, taking part in youth sports may lead to greater leisure-time physical activity as an adult .

However, kids’ injuries from playing sports are on the rise, perhaps due to several factors :

  • Physical stress from the demands of training on kids’ growing bodies
  • Life stress (which increases the risk of injury)
  • Improper training
  • Poor coaching

Can youth sports injuries be prevented?
Most sports injuries can be prevented, even predicted! The first step in preventing sports injuries is finding out why sports injuries occur. Sports injuries may be caused by:

  • Individual risk factors (such as medical conditions)
  • Inadequate physical exams before participating (every child should get a sports-specific physical exam before each season)
    • Find out what UM experts say about heart screening for young athletes.
  • Lack of pre-season conditioning
  • Lack of safety equipment, or poorly fitted, improper equipment
  • Lack of proper eye protection
  • Teaming up by age instead of size
  • Unsafe playing fields, or surfaces
  • Improper training or coaching, or lack of instruction
  • Fatigue
  • Not warming up, cooling down and stretching properly
  • Playing while injured
  • Stress and inappropriate pressure to win
  • Temperature
  • Poor nutrition or hydration

More resources:

  • Check out this excellent guide from the National Institutes of Health on Childhood Sports Injuries and Their Prevention. It has tips on treating and avoiding sports injuries, and even has “scorecards” with information about specific sports.
  • The Young Athlete, from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), describes how young athletes are different, and what to watch out for with kids involved in sports.
  • A Guide to Safety for Young Athletes, also from the AAOS, discusses reasons for concern, plus how to prevent injuries and play it safe.
  • Sports Safety Checklist to help prevent common athletic injuries—from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association.

What do I need to know about trampoline safety?
Trampoline injuries have been increasing in number and severity. In 2007, hospital emergency rooms treated more than 210,000 kids under age 15 for trampoline injuries.

According to professional medical associations, trampolines should never be used at home, in gym classes, or on the playground. Kids should use trampolines under the supervision of a professional trained in trampoline safety in competitive sports training programs.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) offers these additional safety precautions :

  • Only one person should use a trampoline at a time.
  • Trampoline legs should be placed firmly into a hole slightly wider and longer than the trampoline frame, and deep enough so that the mat is level with the ground.
  • The surrounding surface should be shock-absorbing to reduce risk of injury.
  • The supporting bars, hooks, springs, strings and surrounding landing surfaces should be completely covered with adequate shock-absorbent protective padding.
  • Place the trampoline away from structures, fences, trees and other play areas.
  • Adult spotters must be present when participants are jumping.
  • Somersaults or high-risk maneuvers should never be attempted without appropriate supervision and instruction; these maneuvers should be done only with proper use of protective equipment, such as a harness and helmet.
  • Do not use the trampoline in inclement weather conditions like rain or snow.
  • Tip the trampoline onto its side (if possible) when not in use to prevent jumping without proper supervision.
  • More trampoline safety tips in this position statement from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).
  • Listen to the American Academy of Pediatrics Minute for Kids about Trampoline Safety

How about the risks for emotional injury in youth sports?

A good sports program will provide a safe learning environment where kids can grow physically and emotionally in self confidence.

However, some kids have negative experiences and sustain real emotional injury. Find out more in this fact sheet: Emotional Injuries, from the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation.

Parents have a big role to play. Listen: Parents: Be a Good Sport Too.

What about vitamins, drugs and supplements that are supposed to improve performance?
Here’s some information from the American College of Sports Medicine:

  • Vitamin and mineral supplements
  • Creatine
  • Steroids
  • Listen to the American Academy of Pediatrics Minute for Kids about Steroids in Sports
  • Chromium
  • Information for teens on Sports Supplements

What are the risks for specific sports?

In 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported the following statistics on injuries to youth under age 18 :

  • Football sends 1,024,022 kids to doctor’s offices, emergency rooms and hospitals.
  • Soccer is next on the list, with 368, 726 injuries for that same age group.
  • Cheerleading was the cause of 75,307 injuries.
  • Gymnastics injuries numbered 67,542.

Where can I get more information about safety in specific sports?


  • Fact sheet on ice hockey injuries from the British Columbia Injury Research and Prevention Unit (Canada).
  • Be familiar with the Heads up, don’t duck! campaign to prevent ice hockey spine injuries.
  • The AAP has issued a policy statement on Safety in youth ice hockey: the effects of body checking.
  • Video: Check out these instructional videos from Massachusetts Hockey’s “Heads Up, Don’t Duck!” campaign. The short videos teach you how to safely take a check and hit the boards.
  • Listen to the American Academy of Pediatrics Minute for Kids about Body Checking in Hockey


  • Common injuries: Bruises, cuts and scrapes, headaches, sunburn.
  • Safest playing with: Shin guards, athletic supporters for males, cleats, sunscreen, water.
  • Injury prevention: Aerobic conditioning and warmups, and proper training in “heading” (that is, using the head to strike or make a play with the ball).
  • Soccer safety, from SafeUSA.
  • Guidelines for moveable soccer goal safety, from the CPSC.
  • Listen to the American Academy of Pediatrics Minute for Kids about preventing soccer injuries
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics makes these recommendations :
    • “Protective eyewear and mouth guards may help reduce the number of some nonfatal head and facial injuries.
    • Further research is needed to determine if rule changes, equipment modifications, or further safety interventions can reduce the number of other injuries.
    • Because soccer-related fatalities have been strongly linked with head impact on goalposts, goalposts should be secured in a manner consistent with guidelines developed by the manufacturers and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
    • The potential for permanent cognitive impairment from heading the ball needs to be explored further. Currently, there seems to be insufficient published data to support a recommendation that young soccer players completely refrain from heading the ball. However, adults who supervise participants in youth soccer should minimize the use of the technique of heading the ball until the potential for permanent cognitive impairment is further delineated.
    • Violent behavior and aggressive infractions of the rules that tend to decrease broad participation in youth sports should be strongly discouraged. Parents, coaches, and soccer organizations should work to promote enforcement of all safety rules and strongly encourage sportsmanship, fair play, and maximum enjoyment for the athletes.
    • Pediatricians should encourage efforts to increase participation in all forms of physical activity, including youth soccer. Because soccer is a valuable component of physical activity and fitness for youth in the United States, pediatricians should work with other members of the community to make it safer for young people. “


  • Cheerleading has become the leading cause of catastrophic injury in young female athletes.
  • Listen to the podcast about cheerleading injury and injury prevention, with UM expert Amy Miller Bohn, MD.
  • A parent’s guide to cheerleading safety, from the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA).
  • Tips for avoiding cheerleading injuries from the AAOS.
  • AACCA high school safety rules.
  • March is cheerleading safety month.


  • Common injuries and locations: Bruises; sprains; strains; pulled muscles; tears to soft tissues such as ligaments; broken bones; internal injures(bruised or damaged organs); concussions; back injuries; sunburn. Knees and ankles are the most common injury sites.
  • Safest playing with: Helmet; mouth guard; shoulder pads; athletic supporters for males; chest/rib pads; forearm, elbow, and thigh pads; shin guards; proper shoes; sunscreen; water.
  • Injury prevention: Proper use of safety equipment, warmup exercises, proper coaching techniques and conditioning.
  • Football safety from SafeUSA.
  • Youth football: Heat stress and injury risk—a consensus statement from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).
  • Download a full-color poster with the ACSM’s recommendations


  • Common injuries: Sprains and strains of soft tissues.
  • Safest playing with: Athletic supporters for males, safety harness, joint supports (such as neoprene wraps), water.
  • Injury prevention: Proper conditioning and warmups
  • AAP SportsShorts: Gymnastics, with guidelines for families and coaches on one page, and pediatrician guidelines on the other.
  • Tips for parents to keep gymnasts’ health from taking a tumble. Prepared just for parents by the AAP.


  • Common injuries and locations: Sprains; strains; bruises; fractures; scrapes; dislocations; cuts; injuries to teeth, ankles and knees. (Injury rates are higher in girls, especially for the anterior cruciate ligament or ACL, the wide ligament that limits rotation and forward movement of the shin bone).
  • Safest playing with: Eye protection, elbow and knee pads, mouth guard, athletic supporters for males, proper shoes, water. If playing outdoors, wear sunscreen and, when possible, a hat.
  • Injury prevention: Strength training (particularly knees and shoulders), aerobics (exercises that develop the strength and endurance of heart and lungs), warm-up exercises, proper coaching, and use of safety equipment
  • Basketball safety from SafeUSA.

Softball and Baseball

  • Common injuries: Soft tissue strains; impact injuries that include fractures due to sliding and being hit by a ball; sunburn.
  • Safest playing with: Batting helmet; shin guards; elbow guards; athletic supporters for males; mouth guard; sunscreen; cleats; hat; detachable, “breakaway bases” rather than traditional, stationary ones.
  • Injury prevention: Proper conditioning and warmups.
  • Baseball and softball safety from SafeUSA.
  • Listen: Preventing Baseball and Softball Injuries

Track and Field

  • Common injuries: Strains, sprains, scrapes from falls.
  • Safest playing with: Proper shoes, athletic supporters for males, sunscreen, water.
  • Injury prevention: Proper conditioning and coaching.

Where can I find out more about sports and safety?


  • Heads Up—free CDC tool kit on concussion for high school coaches (also in Spanish)
  • Current comment on Strength Training in Children and Adolescents from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).
  • For teens: Handling sports pressure and competition.
  • Sports, food, and fitness topics for teens from
  • Sickle cell trait and the athlete—a press release on the consensus statement from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association.
  • STOP (Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention) Sports Injuries is a public outreach and education program.

Listen (American Academy of Pediatrics’ Minute for Kids):

  • Overuse Injuries in Sports
  • Protective Eyewear in Sports
  • Quitting a Sports Program
  • Avoiding Golf Cart Injuries
  • Exercise-Induced Asthma
  • Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
  • Treating Sprains


  • The National Youth Sports Safety Foundation is an educational organization dedicated to reducing kids’ sports and fitness injuries.
  • The National Center for Sports Safety seeks to promote the importance of injury prevention and safety on all levels of youth sports through education and research. The NCSS focuses on decreasing the number and/or severity of injuries through developing and teaching sports safety courses and collecting, analyzing and researching injury data.
  • The Positive Coaching Alliance is a non-profit within the Stanford University Athletic Department. Its mission is to transform the culture of youth sports to give all young athletes the opportunity for a positive, character-building experience. The Alliance offers workshops for youth sports coaches, parents, organizational leaders and athletes, as well as free tips and tools for parents and coaches at their website.
  • The Institute for the Study of Youth Sports, in the College of Education, Michigan State University, Department of Kinesiology, studies the beneficial and harmful aspects of youth sports in order to maximize the beneficial aspects. The website contains content for parents, coaches and kids.

Related topics on YourChild:

  • YourChild: Sledding and Winter Sports Safety
  • YourChild: Playground and Outdoor Play Safety
  • YourChild: Recreational Vehicle Safety
  • YourChild: Safety Out and About (Biking, Walking, Skating, Skateboarding and Scooters)
  • YourChild: Eating Disorders
  • YourChild: Hunting and Shooting Sports Safety

Compiled by Kyla Boyse, RN. Reviewed by Amy Miller, MD.
Updated August 2009


| More

U-M Health System Related Sites and Services:
U-M Pediatrics
U-M Bone & Joint Injury Prevention & Rehabilitation Center: Youth Sport Injury Prevention
Family Medicine Sports Medicine Program
U-M MedSport Sports Medicine Program

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1. Football

According to The Great School Organization, doctors treat 389,000 musculoskeletal injuries a year to players between the age of five and 14. Concussion study has also become more advanced. Since football is a collision sport, it records almost twice the amount of injuries as other sports like basketball and soccer. High school athletes, because of their smaller stature, are almost twice as likely to sustain an injury as a college athlete.

2. Boys Basketball

Basketball is the second most dangerous sport for high school boys. According to Web MD, Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI’s) have increased by nearly 70 percent over the last decade. Even though head injuries are up, strains and sprains are still the leading injuries for the sport. It’s important that athletes take the time to stretch before each practice/game.

3. Soccer

With more and more kids participating in soccer, it’s only natural that the number of injuries will increase as well. Leg injuries such as ankle sprains or thigh/leg sprains are the most common for soccer players. Surprisingly, concussions are not that common in soccer. However, 66 percent of the injuries that occur from heading a ball are head related injuries.

4. Baseball

Most injuries in baseball are due to contact with another player, the bat, or ball. Baseball players who start when they’re young will have a greater chance of sustaining an arm or elbow related injury when they get older. If severe head trauma occurs while playing baseball, it’s usually because the athlete failed to wear the required protective gear.

5. Lacrosse

According to The Great School Organization, Lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports in the nation as teams have increased by 200 percent in the past few years. It’s estimated that one out of ten injuries in Lacrosse are classified as a concussion. It’s a collision sport, so knee and leg injuries are also common. Commotio Cordis (Sudden Cardiac Death) can occur in this sport with players taking a sudden blow to the chest area, which could cause the heart to stop. Even though this injury is very rare, it’s the most worrisome injury with Lacrosse.

To see the top-5 most dangerous sports for girls,

What do you think? Does this limit what sports you will allow your kids to participate in?

Finding the best activities for your kids to prevent physical problems down the road

Finding a sport for your child can seem like a daunting task. You want to encourage their interests and make sure they like whatever they choose, but you also must ensure that they stay safe and don’t set themselves up for problems when they grow up. With new evidence emerging that certain physical activities can cause damage later in life, it pays to do your research and determine exactly what can happen during which activities. There is plenty of material about the most dangerous sports for kids. But what about the safest?

We thought that we’d help you out with that.

Below you will find a list of sporting activities that have been scientifically proven to be safer than the alternatives. We will lay out all the data for you so that you can make informed decisions.

The safest sports, the fewest injuries

Statistically, the safest sports are the ones with the lowest rates of injury. The Colorado School of Public Health ran a study in which they tracked more than 150 schools across the country.

Some activities have hidden dangers even though outwardly they might not seem physically strenuous (for instance, ballet dancers suffer from muscle strains and twisted ankles, and if they decide to pursue dancing on pointe, their poor toes will bear the weight of their entire body).

The following sports have been proven to be among the safest physical activities:

  • Swimming: This is one of the most popular high school sports for both boys and girls, and it is the second-fastest growing sport in the country. On average, boys have a risk rate of 0.17 injuries per 1,000 times they swam, and girls have a rate of 0.38 injuries per 1,000 times they swam. For boys, this equals one injury out of approximately 6,000 practices and meets; for girls, this is one injury per 3,000 times swimming.
    Dangers include swimmer’s shoulder (muscle overuse during certain strokes), hitting the wall when swimming laps, and – the obvious – drowning. This is why your children should never swim alone. Make sure a lifeguard is always on duty before getting into the water. However, this low-impact activity will be with your child throughout his or her lifetime. It builds strength, muscle tone and flexibility.
  • Tennis: If you want a sport that will last you into retirement, a racket sport is a great one to choose. This also includes racquetball or squash, though it can be difficult to learn those games if you have already learned tennis (the swinging techniques are very different). These games will allow your kid to learn speed, agility, mental toughness, all about how angles work, and the ability to work solo or as part of a team.
    Dangers include, but are not limited to, tennis elbow, a condition that can damage the tendons in forearm muscles when the racket is used incorrectly or the muscles are overused. Kids also must be able to last for three or five sets, depending on whether they are a girl or a boy, and that means building endurance. It can take a few hours to get through three sets. The sport is much harder than it looks.
  • Golf: This sport isn’t just for businessmen or retired fogies. More and more young kids are getting into golf because it gets them outside onto beautiful, grassy courses where they can talk with their friends for hours while hitting a ball. Plus, you get to drive an awesome golf cart!
    Dangers include, but are not limited to, shoulder, elbow and wrist injuries from improper swinging techniques, crashing your golf cart, and dehydration from being out in the sun all day. Make sure to drink lots of water when you are out on the golf course.
  • Volleyball: This sport is great for building team dynamics among children and learning to work in groups. This is the second safest sport for boys, clocking in at 0.53 injuries per 1,000; for girls, it is the fourth safest, at 1.07 injuries per 1,000. That makes girls twice as likely to injure themselves as boys. However, it is far more popular among girls and they are likelier to play the sport.
    Dangers include, but are not limited to, muscle strains, falling, shoving and getting hit by the ball, which is surprisingly painful – it’s a sturdy ball. Getting hit in the face with that thing smarts.
  • Track and Field: This one was a surprising addition to the list, considering how physically strenuous track and field is. It’s an Olympic sport, for goodness’ sake. (Well, so are the others, to be fair.) This sport involves running, jumping over hurdles, heaving javelins, and throwing shotputs, but males experienced 0.74 injuries per 1,000, and females experienced 0.93 injuries per 1,000.
    Dangers include, but are not limited to, muscle strains, sprains, fractures, hitting the obstacles, landing incorrectly and dehydration.

These are the safest sports, though that is not to say other sports have not made great strides in safety protocols. Baseball, for instance, has 0.87 injuries per 1,000 for boys, and has changed its standards for padding, helmets and pitching limits so that players are more protected. However, you can still get hit by the ball, strain yourself at bat, overuse your arm when throwing the ball, and more.

When determining spots to pursue with your child, you should research the sport in detail and then sit down with your child to discuss the pros and cons. Because the kid needs to be happy doing the activity – but safe, too.

Playing sports is great for children and adults. It has both physical and psychological benefits. Sports can increase physical coordination, fitness, and self-esteem. They also teach important lessons about teamwork and self-discipline.

However, children are at risk for sports injuries because their bodies are still growing and their coordination is still developing. Many children ages 14 and under are treated for sports-related injuries each year. Half of all of those injuries can be prevented with proper use of safety gear, changes to the playing environment, and by following sports rules that help prevent injuries.

Most sports injuries occur due to the following:

  • Lack of education and awareness about safety precautions and potential injury

  • Inappropriate or lack of equipment

  • Poorly conditioned players

These are general safety precautions to help prevent sports injuries:

  • Wear the right safety gear and equipment.

  • The playing environment should be well lit and appropriate for the sport in question.

  • Enforce safety rules.

  • Players should stay hydrated during and after sports.

  • Take breaks while training and during games to prevent overuse injuries.

Safety gear and equipment

Safety gear should be sport-specific and may include such items as goggles, mouth guards, shin-elbow-knee pads, and helmets. The safety gear should fit properly. In addition, sports equipment (such as bats, baskets, and goals) should be in good working condition and any damage should be repaired or the item should be replaced. The playing area should be free from debris and water.

The sports physical

To make sure you or your child is physically fit to play in a particular sport, he or she should have a sports physical. These physicals can reveal physical strengths and weaknesses and help determine which sports are appropriate.

When is my child ready to participate in sports?

Starting a child in sports at too young an age may not benefit the child physically. Children can start playing team sports when they express strong interest and you feel they can handle it. Age and size shouldn’t be the only measures used. Also consider their ability to understand the concept of rules and teamwork. Keep in mind that no two children are alike, and some may not be ready physically or psychologically to take part in a team sport until they are older. Base your decision on whether to allow the child to take part in a particular sport based on the following:

  • Age

  • Weight

  • Build

  • Physical development

  • Emotional development

  • Child’s interest in the sport

Note: AAP recommends that late-developing teens avoid contact sports until their bodies have developmentally “caught up” to their peers’ bodies.

The importance of hydration

Sweat lost during sports must be replaced with equal amounts of fluids each hour of intense sports activity. You or your child should drink fluids before, during, and after each practice or game. To avoid stomach cramps from drinking large amounts of fluids at once, drink about one cup of water (or a type of sports drink) every 15 to 20 minutes. Drinks to avoid include those with carbonation and caffeine.

The following are the most common symptoms of dehydration:

  • Extreme thirst

  • Weakness

  • Headache or dizziness

  • Dark-colored urine

  • Slight weight loss

If you or your child has signs of dehydration, make sure you or he or she receives fluids immediately, as well as a snack. The symptoms of dehydration may look like other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

Which sports generate the most concussions?

There is a hierarchy to sports that are the most dangerous when it comes to concussions. The ones that are most dangerous are combat sports where there’s full contact like martial arts, mixed martial arts (MMA), cage fighting and boxing. No studies have been done on these, but because the point of the sport is to hit and injure the other person, those are likely to have the highest risk of concussion. In terms of sports for which there is actual data, they are grouped according to high risk, middle risk and low risk.

Studies have shown that the high-risk sports include full tackle football, rugby, ice hockey, wrestling, and boys lacrosse. The second tier, or middle-risk level, includes soccer for boys or girls, and girls lacrosse. Basketball is probably a little bit on the lower end of the middle-risk level, but there are some collisions that occur in basketball. The low-risk sports include baseball, track and swimming.

There are some sports that need mention that haven’t been studied but are a little bit surprising. Water polo, for example, is probably in the moderate range. Cheerleading can also cause concussions. While it’s only the 13th most likely cause of concussion among sports in a national high school database during competition, in practice it turns out that cheerleading is the third highest sport associated with concussions, partly because in many jurisdictions it’s not considered a sport. They don’t have the same protective equipment and supervision that the “official” sports do.

This content originally appeared online at UCLA Health.

The Riskiest Sports for Head Injuries

T-ball, Pee Wee soccer, and hockey — kids’ sports start early and can quickly become a big part of family life. Of course you want to encourage exercise, sportsmanship, and team spirit, but keeping your child safe while he competes should also be a priority. “Concussion rates in sports are the result of a number of factors, including improper technique, ill-fitting equipment, and the amount some kids play, on both a rec team and in a travel league,” explains Elizabeth Pieroth, Psy.D., a neuropsychologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Chicago and the concussion consultant for the Chicago Bears, Blackhawks, Fire, and White Sox, and Northwestern University.

Before your child signs up for any kind of sport, make sure that the coaches have had concussion safety training and be aware of the symptoms of a concussion yourself: Persistent headache, dizziness, mental fogginess or confusion, and sensitivity to light and sound are some of the more common ones.

  • RELATED: How to Handle Your Child’s Concussion

Many leagues now provide coaches with concussion training, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers an online course that’s free to everyone. Reassure your child that it’s fine — and even a good idea — to sit out if she’s injured. It’s also important to keep the pressure to play low and repeat the message: “It’s just a game.”Here’s how each sport stacks up in the head-injury risk category, as well as ways to keep your child from sustaining one:

The risks You might have guessed this would be number one. Football gets plenty of bad press due to its aggressive nature, but it’s still hugely popular. Another issue: A child’s neck isn’t as strong as an adult’s, so a blow to the head from a fall or tackle is difficult to absorb and can send the brain crashing against the skull.

Make it safer Some experts believe kids under 14 shouldn’t play tackle football; instead, flag football can be a safer way to practice the necessary skills and learn the sport. If your child does join a tackle football team, be certain the coach has been certified by Heads Up Football, a program created by USA Football to provide education on safer tackling techniques (keeping the head up, back straight, and leading with the shoulder), concussion management, and proper fitting equipment.

Ice Hockey

The risks Crashing against the boards, tripping over other players, and zipping around the rink make hockey number two on the sports concussion list for boys. Although fewer girls play ice hockey, concussion rates for those who do are high as well.

Make it safer Fortunately, many youth hockey leagues don’t allow checking — using your body to knock an opponent in possession of the puck to the ice or into the boards — until kids are at least in junior high school. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no checking by players age 15 or younger for good reason: Kids who play in leagues where body checking is permitted are three times more likely to sustain a concussion and other injuries.

Properly sized and properly worn equipment is key in hockey, and the most important piece of gear is, of course, a helmet: It should be approved by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC) and have a full face mask with a chin cup and a securely fastened chin strap. Players should also be taught “Heads up, don’t duck” — when crashing into the boards, another opponent, or the ice itself, they should try to make contact with the shoulders or the buttocks, never the head.

The risks Repeated “heading” of the ball, colliding with fellow players, and crashing into the goalpost can cause concussions in this sport. Girls tend to suffer more of them than do boys who play soccer — in fact, soccer takes the number-one position for rates of concussion in girls — though the reason isn’t exactly clear: It may be that girls’ necks aren’t as strong as boys’ are or that girls are more inclined to report their symptoms.

Make it safer Goalies suffer more injuries than other players do, often resulting from collisions with the posts. Be sure the goals are securely tethered to the ground; ideally, the goal posts should also have four inches of padding. Coaches should teach kids the proper “heading” technique and encourage them to be aware of the other players when attempting this move so they don’t accidentally crash into an opponent or teammate.


The risks Lacrosse is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States, with ever-increasing concussion rates to show for it, especially among high school boys who are permitted to body check in a similar fashion to hockey. The ball is hard, it’s thrown with great velocity, and players can knock into each other at multiple points as they move down the field.

Make it safer Although boys’ lacrosse allows significant contact, unprotected hits have no place in the game. Helmets with full-face guards are mandatory, as are shoulder pads, padded gloves, and mouthpieces. The use of elbow pads and protective genital cups is also recommended.

For girls, who do not wear helmets, coaches, officials, and players must adhere to limited contact. Intentional body contact is not legal and stick checking must be directed away from an opponent’s head and body toward the pocketed end of the stick only. Protective goggles and mouthpieces are mandatory, with lightweight gloves and soft headgear optional.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

  • By Jennifer Kelly Geddes

Myth No. 6: Children can return to sports before school

Dr. So advises parents: Your child is always a student first, then an athlete. The first priority is to get the child’s symptoms under control so he or she can return to school. “Once they return to school without a recurrence of symptoms, then they can start their gradual return to sports.”

Dr. Genin notes how far our understanding of mild traumatic brain injuries such as concussions — and the consequences if they go untreated — has advanced.

“Physicians, athletic trainers, coaches and athletes are more aware and more apt to treat them with the attention they deserve,” he says.

Myth No.7: Concussion treatments are “one size fits all”

There’s no one method to treat a concussion. Everyone’s symptoms are a bit different, and they last for varying periods of time.

Concussion requires an individualized treatment plan, Dr. So says. Some patients may need physical therapy to treat neck pain. Yet others might see a speech therapist to deal with cognitive deficits. Likewise, some have problems sleeping after a concussion and need to go to a sleep therapist. That’s why it’s especially important to see a doctor and craft the right plan for recovery.

Concussion resources

Visit Cleveland Clinic’s Concussion Center