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Avoiding football injuries: How to keep young athletes off the sidelines

With football season in full swing, it’s important to know about common youth football injuries, how to avoid them and when your child may need a physician.

September 22, 2023

As you gear up for school to start, sports injuries may be the last thing you’re thinking about. But with games already on the schedule, it’s important to understand common sports-related injuries—and how to prevent them—so your kiddo’s season doesn’t get cut short. 

“Players are especially prone to injury in contact sports like football,” says Dr. Andrew Hiller, orthopedic surgeon with HCA Florida Healthcare. “But there’s still a lot we can do to avoid injuries—and coaches play an important role, from teaching players to use proper tackling form and slowly building up their fitness level over time to ensuring proper warmups, cooldowns and hydration, for example.”

Not sure how to help your favorite player? Here are a few tips.

Understanding youth football’s most common injuries

Football is a contact sport. That means injuries can come from impacts of other players on the field, particularly when blocking and tackling. Of course, players can also experience non-contact injuries too. 

Common youth football injuries include:

  • Ankle sprains
  • Concussions
  • Hamstring injuries
  • Heat-related injuries
  • Knee injuries

“When you think of football injuries, you likely think of ‘catastrophic’ injuries like you see in the NFL. But many of the injuries we see in youth football are minor sprains and strains—many of which can be prevented with proper practice habits,” says Dr. Hiller.

Preventing football injuries

While not all injuries can be avoided, we can take steps to significantly lower a young player’s risk of injury, including:

  • Getting a preseason sports physical: Required by most schools before participating in sports, preseason physicals are important check-ins to make sure your child doesn’t have any underlying conditions or concerns that could increase their risk for injury. 
  • Ensuring they follow proper form: Football players must maintain proper tackling form to protect themselves—and everyone else on the field—from injury. 
  • Helping players maintain their fitness: Going too hard, too fast can increase injury risk. By staying in shape throughout the offseason through regular strength, cardiovascular and flexibility-building activities, your child will be better prepared for football season—and better protected from injury.
  • Keeping players hydrated: Dehydration can be dangerous, especially in the heat of late summer and early fall. Keeping players hydrated improves performance and lowers the risk of heat-related illness.
  • Making sure your child’s equipment fits: Protective equipment like helmets, mouth guards and shoulder pads work best when they fit properly. 
  • Warming players up (and cooling them down): Cold muscles are more prone to injury. Proper warmups and cooldowns, including dynamic warmups to warm the muscles and cool downs to lower the heart rate, can help prevent injury. 

When to see a doctor for football injuries

Many football injuries can be treated at home with rest, ice and, if needed, over-the-counter pain relievers. However, it may be time for your child to see a physician if there are signs of:

  • Acute injury: Broken bones, dislocations and torn ligaments are all reasons to go straight to the emergency room. 
  • Concussion: If your child has a head injury, make sure they get cleared by a physician before returning to play. 
  • Numbness or tingling: These symptoms could be signs of nerve damage and should be evaluated immediately.
  • Symptoms that aren’t going away: If your child’s injury is not getting better with rest—or flares up again after returning to play—see a physician to diagnose the injury and identify a treatment plan.

Get care for injuries—football or otherwise

If an injury happens during a big game, help is always close by. Our highly skilled emergency team is ready with all the help you need to get your young athlete back in the game. Find an emergency care location near you. 

If you’re not sure what steps to take next, our experienced, licensed nurses are available at any time to answer your questions. Call (844) 706-8773 anytime, day or night for answers, advice and peace of mind.

September 22, 2023

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