At the beginning of each football season, players eagerly rush out onto the field while their parents worry that they may sustain a serious injury from the sport. The good news is that when injuries do occur, they are rarely severe and usually do not require a doctor's care. Following basic safety rules can allow your child to play youth football with risk of severe injury.
Number of Injuries
The Journal of Athletic Training reported in 2007 that an estimated 28 percent of the 5.5 million youth football players between the ages of 5 and 14 are injured each year. About 187,000 of these injuries require emergency medical care. In 2013, USA Football released preliminary findings after the first year of a multi-year study. They note that fewer than 10 percent of youth football players incur an injury, and of those injuries, 64 percent are considered minor injuries. In general, younger and lighter players are at less risk of injury than older, heavier players. This may be because heavier players exert more force on themselves and each other in the case of a collision.
The most common types of injuries in youth football players are bruises, ligament sprains and muscle strains. Contusions are more common than ligament and muscle strains, according to the USA Football preliminary findings. The most common areas of the body for injuries are the hand and wrist, ankle, foot and knee. Concussions and other head injuries as well as spinal and neck injuries are less common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report there are 55,007 concussions from youth football each year -- 0.47 concussions per 1000 athletes.
Youth may suffer overuse injuries, especially in the beginning of the football season, when they haven't yet been properly conditioned and may be pushing themselves too hard. Another common problem is heat stress, particularly during hot and humid weather. Children should have medical check-ups before the season begins to screen them for potential health issues that may lead to injury or illness.
Coaches and parents can prevent many football injuries by insisting on proper behavior and appropriate safety equipment use. Helmets, mouth guards, padding and footwear are all important tools to keep children safe while playing football. The playing fields should be well-maintained. The coaches should be trained in first aid and CPR, since most injuries that occur can be managed on the field. Children should understand good sportsmanship and safety rules and warm up before playing to reduce the incidence of injury.
- American College of Sports Medicine: Youth Football: Heat Stress and Injury Risk
- Journal of Athletic Training: Time-Loss and Non–Time-Loss Injuries in Youth Football Players
- KidsHealth: Preventing Children's Sports Injuries
- Eurekalert: Return of football season brings attention to high injury rates and need for prevention
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Concussion in Sports and Play: Get the Facts
- USA Football: USA Football Releases Preliminary Data in Study Examining Youth Football Health and Safety