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When you finish this chapter you will be able to:

  • Explain why young athletes are more susceptible to injuries than adults.

  • Identify where, how, and to whom youth sports injuries are occurring in the United States.

  • Discuss matching of young athletes as a criterion for determining competitive levels.

  • Understand that young athletes can safely engage in a strength-training program.

  • Discuss the psychological considerations relative to young athletes competing in sport activities.

  • Identify different organizations that have established certification programs for coaches of youth sports.

  • Discuss recognition and management of the types of injuries that are likely to occur in the young athlete.

  • Explain what parents and coaches can do to help prevent or minimize injuries in the young athlete.

Under the best of circumstances, sports programs for young participants promote responsible social behaviors, greater academic success, confidence in physical abilities, an appreciation of personal health and fitness, and the development of strong social bonds. Sports, when specifically planned for, can provide a venue for learning positive ethical behaviors.34,47

Sports can promote:

  • Responsible social behaviors

  • Greater academic success

  • Confidence in physical abilities

  • Appreciation of health and fitness

  • Positive ethical behaviors


In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the participation of young children, particularly females, in both organized and informal sports, as well as recreational activities (Figure 25–1).1,3 Approximately 75 percent of U.S. households with school-age children have at least one child who plays organized sports.31 Unfortunately, along with this growth in sports participation comes an increase in sports- and recreation-related injuries. One in three children who plays a team sport is injured seriously enough to miss practice or games.31 Certainly, the risk of physical injury is inherent in sports participation. Young athletes are more susceptible to these injuries because they are continuously gaining motor and cognitive skills throughout the growth process.43


Unsupervised play is generally more dangerous than organized sports activities. ©Natalya Gerasimova/iStockphoto/Getty Images

Parents and professionals in the areas of education, psychology, and medicine have long questioned whether vigorous physical training and competition are advisable for the immature child.43 Increasingly, children, particularly females, are engaging in intense programs of training that may require many hours of daily commitment extending over many years.20 Swimmers may practice 2 hours, two times a day, covering 6,000 to 10,000 meters each session; gymnasts may practice 3 to 5 hours per day; and runners may cover as many as 70 miles each week.

Many parents and health professionals question the value of sports for the immature child.

The number of young people between 5 and 17 years of ...

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