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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.27

Sports can promote:

  • Responsible social behaviors

  • Greater academic success

  • Confidence in physical abilities

  • Appreciation of health and fitness

  • Positive ethical behaviors


For a number of years prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, there had 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).36 Approximately 75 percent of U.S. households with school-age children had at least one child who played organized sports.38 However, there is no question that the pandemic significantly impacted the number of youth between the ages of 6 and 18 participating in sport activity. According to data from the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program’s Project Play Summit,5 44 percent of families said their community-based youth sports programs had either closed or ceased operation. While 46 percent of travel sports families also said their program had closed or merged with another league or club. Half of all sports parents feared their child getting sick as a barrier to resume play. Even more disturbing is nearly 30 percent of youth athletes said they had lost interest in playing organized sports.5


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

In the early part of 2021, concerns about participating in organized sport begin to wane, and parental comfort levels with travel sports, community-based sports, and school sports began to return to where they were prior to the pandemic.5

About 25 percent of parents felt their child’s mental health had suffered during the pandemic, but since the ...

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