Adolescents & Sport: Part 2

Last time, we looked at some of the benefits of participating in sports (if you didn’t catch that blog, you can access it here). This time, I wanted to explore the other side of the equation and look at some common injuries.

Hopefully you’ll be well prepared when deciding which sport is best for your adolescent.

By far the most common type of injury to occur in adolescent sport are musculoskeletal injuries – injuries to bones, joint, muscles, tendons, ligaments etc. While injuries sustained during sport can be serious eg. spinal cord injuries, most injuries are relatively minor such as sprained ankles, minor muscular tears and contusions.

Sprains & strains

Often used interchangeably, there are slight technical differences between a sprain and a strain.

A sprain is an injury to a ligament – a tough, connective tissue which connects bones to other bones, and are responsible for maintaining the stability of joints.

Ligament injuries are usually classified as either:

Grade 1 – Mild ligament tear
Grade 2 – Moderate ligament tear
Grade 3 – Ruptured ligament.

Sprains occur when a joint is forced beyond its normal range of motion. General symptoms may include:

1. Pain with movement
2. Swelling and possible bruising

Common areas for sprains might be ankles and knees.

Sport Therapy

A strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon. Muscles are bundles of fibrous connective tissue which contract, producing movement of the body. Whereas tendons are flexible, fibrous tissues which connect the muscles to the bones, transmitting force from the muscle to the bone to create movement.

Strains are also commonly classified:

Grade 1 – Mild tearing of bundle of fibres
Grade 2 – Moderate tearing of fibres (multiple bundles)
Grade 3 – Complete tearing of fibres (separation)

Common areas for muscle strains include hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. Common areas for tendon strains might be the achilles tendon and the biceps brachii tendon.


Also known as a bruise or ‘cork’, a contusion is a collection of blood outside of the blood vessels due to trauma to the smaller blood vessels. This type of injury is most often seen in contact sports, such as rugby, AFL, NFL, etc. They generally occur from a direct blow to the body (especially thighs and shoulders).

Contusions can be quite painful and can restrict range of motion around the affected area for a number of weeks. Care needs to be taken to not stretch or massage the area too aggressively as this can lead to further complications.

Growth Plate Injuries

Growth plates are areas near the ends of longs bones of the body, such as the femur, tibia and humerus, where cartilage is slowly hardening into bone. These areas, which allow growth of the long bones during adolescence are typically the last part of the bone to fully harden. This leaves these areas vulnerable to injury. Growth plate injuries again tend to occur in contact or high impact sports.


As adolescent bones are developing and ossifying (hardening), they are vulnerable to fractures. When this happens immediate medical attention is required and nearly all registered sporting codes will have a qualified first-aid responder on sight to help manage any fractures.

One particular type of fracture which is commonly seen in young athletes is a stress fracture. Bones are in a constant state of breaking down and modelling and if an overly eager adolescent begins playing too much sport too soon, their bone breaks down quicker than new bone can be laid down. This can result in weakness and fracturing of the bone. Common areas of the body for this to occur include the lower back, pelvis, shin bones and feet.

If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of managing a sports-related injury with your adolescent, a physiotherapy consultation is your best bet at getting the proper management. We have physiotherapists with loads of experience dealing with team sport injuries. Give us a call or book online.

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