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Johns Hopkins Health - Little Kids, Big Injuries

Spring 2012
Issue No. 16

Little Kids, Big Injuries

Date: April 25, 2012

Little Kids, Big Injuries

Children who are involved in assorted sports are engaging in regular, healthy physical activity. Just be wary of your kids taking on too much. Heed this advice from Johns Hopkins pediatric sports-medicine physician Amy Valasek, M.D., to help them stay safely in the game.

Why is playing multiple sports a good thing for my child?

A multisport athlete is a more well-rounded athlete. Exposing kids to a variety of sports throughout the year works on different parts of the body and keeps bones, joints and muscles healthy. Athletes who specialize in one sport at a young age are more prone to burnout and injury. If your child does specialize in one sport from an early age—say, younger than 13—only let him or her participate for nine months of the year, and on one team only.

What is the risk of injury to young athletes?

Because they’re still growing, their bones have open growth plates and are at risk. Overuse injuries of the tendons can lead to bones pulling off the growth centers, which can have a detrimental effect. In particular, children who focus only on one sport can put considerable stress on the same parts of their bodies, placing them at risk for fractures or ligament injuries at a young age.

Whom should I talk to if I think my child is injured?

If you have concerns, discuss with your primary care provider and consider a consultation with a specialist trained in children’s sports-medicine issues. An ongoing relationship with these types of physicians is especially important if your child focuses on one sport. Our goal is to educate parents and children on preventing overuse injuries and being aware of warning signs to warrant prompt intervention.

What precautions should I take with my child to help prevent injuries?

Make sure that the sport is a good fit for your child’s developmental level, and know exactly what you’re signing up for. A commitment such as two practices a day for six months isn’t necessarily realistic for a fourth-grader. Also, never ignore pain in a child. Encourage your child to speak up and tell you or a coach if something hurts. What might seem like a simple sprain could potentially be more serious at a young age.

Free Online Seminar
Overuse Injuries in Pediatric Athletes

Tuesday, June 5, 7–8 p.m.

Join Amy Valasek, M.D., as she discusses common overuse injuries in pediatric and adolescent athletes, tips for managing overuse injuries, and prevention. To register, visit