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With increased sports specialization, as well as year-round sport participation and structured activities, children and teens today are more likely to get injured. Injury prevention is an effort to prevent or reduce the severity of injuries through proper training, conditioning and the instruction of healthy guidelines. With proper training and conditioning, the risks of injury will be reduced while also improving sports performance.

Most lower body injuries in sports happen because of contact- or non-contact-related trauma, poor body mechanics, or overuse. By knowing the root cause of a lower body injury, we can determine how to best prevent it and help protect your child’s or teen’s growing bones, ligaments and tendons.

Kids and teens are at a higher risk of a lower body injury because of:

  • Slower reaction times
  • Varying height and weight
  • Less coordination
  • High-intensity sports
  • Over-training
  • Stress and burnout
  • Puberty
  • Overuse

Keep your child in the game by applying some of these simple injury prevention pointers.

Prevention is key—and possible—if you’re trying to keep your growing athlete healthy and safe while he is playing sports. Our pediatric orthopedic and sports medicine specialists at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta have created the following recommendations to help prevent and protect your child from lower body injuries:

  • Schedule your child for an annual physical evaluation before participating in sports.
  • Schedule a sports motion analysis to have your child’s mechanics analyzed. By using the proper technique, growing athletes can lower the risk of injury and help improve performance. 
  • Encourage your child to warm up properly before an activity by engaging in low-impact exercises like jogging in place and stretching tight muscles.
  • Make sure training is increased gradually. Don’t increase training frequency (activity levels) and intensity (weight, mileage or pace) by more than 10% each week.
  • Have your child take at least one day off each week from an organized activity. He should also take at least three months off during the year (in one-month increments) between sports.
  • Encourage your child to try a variety of sports. Young athletes who play the same sport year-round are more likely than others to experience overuse injuries.
  • Have your child wear proper-fitting sports equipment and protective gear, such as running shoes and helmets.
  • Be aware that overuse injuries can occur in practice as well as during games.
  • To avoid repeat injuries, don’t let your child return to play until you know what caused the injury and the injury has had proper time to heal.

There are a variety of exercises that growing athletes can do to help them warm up before participating in a practice or competition, as well as try at home, to help build strength, agility and flexibility.

Warming up can help increase your teen athlete’s body temperature and blood flow to his muscles to prepare him for exercise. Dynamic and static stretching help increase flexibility and make sure all primary muscles are used during an exercise session so that he is prepared for the demands of training. Static stretching should follow the dynamic warmup to decrease the risk of injury.

Have your athlete complete each of the eight dynamic warmup exercises below over a certain distance (such as up and down a hallway) or for a certain length of time (such as one minute).

Warmup Exercises to Help Prepare Your Teen's Muscles for Exercise

Stretching properly can help reduce muscle injuries, improve performance on the field and increase an athlete’s flexibility. This is important because flexibility improves mobility, posture and muscle coordination, and it can help reduce the risk of injury or muscle soreness. The five static stretches below can help improve a child’s or teen’s flexibility. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds, and repeat three times on each side.

Static Stretches to Help Improve Your Athlete's Flexibility

Strength is the foundation for power, speed and agility and is essential for control, which helps prevent injury in unstable and chaotic game conditions. Strength gains will also help improve the ability to execute explosive and multidirectional movements. The 13 videos below are helpful in showing your young athlete how to build strength.

Practice each exercise for a set number of repetitions (eight to 10 reps), a set distance (20 yards) or a set amount of time (one minute).

Strength Exercises to Help Teen Athletes

Agility is the ability to change the direction of the body without losing speed, strength, balance or body control. Strong emphasis is placed on proper technique during planting, cutting, landing, starting and stopping drills. Not only will these exercises improve overall athletic performance, but they also will help guard against injury and delay the onset of fatigue, which will allow the athlete to perform safely during practice and games. The five videos below give examples of exercises performed with an agility ladder that can help improve your athlete’s agility.

Practice each exercise for a set number of repetitions (four times down and back) or a set amount of time (one to two minutes per exercise).

Agility Exercises to Help Improve Overall Athletic Performance Using an Agility Ladder

Plyometric exercises enable a muscle to reach its full potential in the shortest amount of time. They do so by using a quick stretch reflex to produce maximal muscle contraction. This training will teach athletes control of the muscles surrounding the knee during landing, which will decrease the landing forces on the joint and protect it from injury. The four videos below are examples of plyometric exercises your child can try at home.

Practice each exercise for a set number of repetitions (eight to 10 reps) or a set amount of time (30 seconds per exercise).

Examples of Plyometric Exercises for Teen Athletes

This content is general information and is not specific medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about the health of a child. In case of an urgent concern or emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department right away. Some physicians and affiliated healthcare professionals on the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta team are independent providers and are not our employees.