What are the most common injuries in an adolescent athlete?

There are quite a few injuries that young athletes, like those listed on can experience due to natural body development. Some of them are:

  • Ankle and foot injuries
  • Shin injuries
  • Knee injuries
  • Hip injuries
  • Spine injuries
  • Shoulder and arm injuries

What are common causes of injuries in an adolescent athlete?

Some research estimates that falls, collisions and overuse injuries are the most common sports or physical activity related injuries in an adolescent athlete. However, there are other factors that should be considered. For example, experts suggest that adolescent athletes who are experiencing psychological issues, have high BMI (body mass index), which is a measure that determines if someone is in ‘healthy’ weight group by using height and weight, or experienced a previous injury are more susceptible to experience an injury.

What are common ankle and foot injuries?

In addition to common injuries seen in adults such as ligament sprains, muscle strains, fractures and tendinopathies, adolescent athletes might also experience different types of injuries. These injuries are related to the growth process. Some of them are listed below:

  • Sever’s disease – which is a growth plate irritation of the heel bone. It usually happens due to overuse and lack of recovery. Growth plate is an area of the bone where the growth occurs. 
  • Iselin’s disease – same principle as with the Sever’s disease, however, the location of symptoms and irritation is at the outside of the small toe.
  • Avulsion fracture of calcaneus and 5th metatarsal – calcaneus is the heel bone and 5th metatarsal is the small toe. The avulsion fracture occurs during a powerful contraction on the muscle which consequently results in tendon, which attaches on that bone, pulling it away from the rest of the bone. Athletes who are not allowing their bodies enough recovery and going through the growth spurt are more likely to experience this type of injury. Treatment of avulsion fractures is usually accomplished with a walking cast or a walking boot, but a foot surgery might be needed if the avulsion fracture is displaced.

Some of these injuries may require a total ankle replacement surgery depending on how severe the injuries are.

What are common shin injuries?

There are not many common shin injuries that would differ significantly from adults. Most common shin injuries would be ‘shin splints’ known as anterior compartment syndrome and stress fracture of the shin bone.

  • ‘Shin splints’ – is a condition where muscle is expanding at a faster rate than the fascia surrounding it. This results in reduced circulation and pressure build up in that particular compartment. This in return causes pain build up which worsens with activity.
  • Stress fracture – is an overuse injury of the bone. It usually occurs in high impact sports and insufficient rest particularly during a growth spurt period.

What are common knee injuries?

In addition to injuries commonly seen in adult athletes such as patellofemoral pain syndrome, ligament sprains, muscle strains and meniscal tears, there are couple of injuries that adolescent athletes are more susceptible to:

  • Osgood-Schlatter’s disease – is an overuse injury which causes pain at the front of the upper part of the shin bone where quadriceps tendon attaches. During growth process, strong and frequent muscular contractions start pulling on the bone and causing inflammation and irritation. To help with the pain and restore mobility, your physician may suggest you to try a non-surgical knee pain relief treatment called viscosupplementation where hyaluronate will be directly injected into the knee joint. If not treated on time it may cause bone deformation and in severe cases an avulsion fracture. 
  • Stress fracture of the tibial plateau – is yet another overuse injury which can be predisposed by high impact activity with insufficient recovery during the growth process as bone has not fully calcified yet at the growth plate.

What are common hip injuries?

Adolescent athletes can experience same hip injuries as an adults including ligament sprains and muscle strains, however, just like with every previous part of the body, adolescent athletes have couple more injuries which can be specific due to the body developing:

  • Avulsion fractures of ischial tuberosity and ASIS (anterior superior iliac spine). Ischial tuberosity are two bony prominences known as your sit bones and are common attachment sites for hamstring muscles. ASIS is the bony prominence at the front of the hip where one of the quadriceps muscle attaches. As explained previously, avulsion fracture is a pull off of a bony prominence where tendon is attaching due to forceful muscular contraction.
  • Stress fracture of the head of femur – head of femur is the round head of the thigh bone which sits in the hip forming the hip joint. This injury usually occurs due to overuse and lack of recovery.

What are common spine injuries?

When it comes to spine, most common injuries that can occur during physical activity in an adolescent athlete are ligament sprains, muscle strains and contusions. Vast majority of the time these injuries are not significant, and a healthy adolescent athlete is expected to make a full recovery. However, there are couple of conditions that physicians should be aware of. Those are:

  • Scheuermann’s disease – which can result in significantly increased kyphosis (rounding of the middle spine) due to the developmental alterations where the vertebral body, instead of being equal hight throughout, front part of the body is shorter, making the particular vertebrae wedge shaped. This usually occur during the growth spurt.
  • Scoliosis – which may also present during the growth spurt. Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine where instead of spine developing straight, it can start forming ‘S’ or ‘C’ like shape.

What are common shoulder and arm injuries?

There are many injuries that can occur in arm and shoulder. The nature and frequency of the injury is also influenced by the physical activity the adolescent athlete is taking for instants, gymnastics, throwing sports or racket sports have greater shoulder and arm injury prevalence than football, field hockey or running. Adolescent athletes may experience same injuries as adult athletes such as ligament sprains, muscle strains, shoulder dislocations or subluxations (partial dislocation), tennis elbows or golfers’ elbows, however, there are few aspects a physician should be wary about due to the growing process:

  • Medial epicondyle apophysitis – is an overuse injury in throwing sports such as baseball or cricket which irritates the bone on the inside of the elbow. It is most prevalent during the growth period.
  • Avulsion fracture of the medial epicondyle – it is most common in throwing sports during the growth spurt. If not addressed early, it may pull a part of a bone away from an area where a tendon is attaching to.

How to reduce the risk of injury in an adolescent athlete?

There are several aspects that an adolescent athlete can do to reduce the chances of a growth specific injury:

  • Always have a good warm up before the activity. This will help your muscles to prepare for the sport you are going to be undertaking.
  • Never skip cool down. It may consist of stretching and foam rolling. It is very important to keep the healthy balance between strength and flexibility. If your muscles are tight, you will be increasing your chances on developing any of the injuries mentioned above alongside muscle strains.
  • Do not overload yourself. There is a very fine line between pushing yourself to the limit because you want to be the best and overtraining because you are not aware how much is too much. If you start feeling that you are giving your 100% every day but you are feeling more exhausted, tired and your performance is dropping, it is a very good indication that you could be overtraining. Listen and understand your body and how it works. Ideally, you would want to have a strength and conditioning coach specialising in your sport to help you grow minimising the chances of overtraining and development of an overuse injury.
  • Do not ignore strength training. Being strong is as important as stretching and foam rolling. If your body is not strong enough to withstand the training regime you are undergoing, you are risking to develop any of the injuries discussed above.

We hope this information is useful for you. If you need advice or have any questions about our treatments, please contact us. You can find us in Mill Hill Broadway and Islington. We are always happy to help. If you like this blog, please share!




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