8 Common Reasons Why High School Athletes Get Injured

High school sports are back in full swing now and that means lots of exciting games and good times…and it also means that injuries are going to happen.  Some of these injuries are just going to happen (i.e. the contact injuries), but some are preventable – which could mean the difference between a successful season that leads to a scholarship or an injury-shortened season that leads to long-term issues.

So what I wanted to do is give you a list of 8 reasons why these “preventable” injuries happen and what you can do about it.  And if your son or daughter unfortunately has been injured, this list will help you determine why their injury happened in the first place…which will help them get back on the field as soon as possible.  The following reasons are in no particular order:

1. Not Properly Conditioned / Out of shape

While this is a common reason for injuries in all high school sports, it is especially true for the fall sports.  And the reason is because most kids aren’t properly preparing themselves for the upcoming season…especially when they can be having fun at the beach in the summer.  A structured strength & conditioning program is the best way to ensure your son/daughter will be properly prepared.  There is a big difference between just “working out” and having a structured training program.  Parents frequently ask me how to prevent injuries from happening and the first answer I always give is good training.  A good, comprehensive training program will should get your son/daughter ready strength-wise, conditioning-wise, and mobility-wise…which leads me to #2.

2. Poor Mobility / Movement

If an athlete has poor mobility or doesn’t move their body properly through typical athletic movements, their chances of getting injured increase.  And I know you’re probably thinking, athletes (especially young ones) are flexible and move well…except that’s not the case.  I can’t tell you how many athletes I’ve worked with that are tight and have terrible mobility in certain body parts.  And usually when an area is tight and doesn’t move well, it causes an injury in a different  body part – for example, poor mobility in the ankle can cause knee pain or lead to an ACL tear.

One reason high school athletes, especially boys, will become tight and not move well is due to growth spurts.  When someone has a significant growth spurt, it takes time for their body to “learn” how to use that new length and in the interim they could put themselves at an increased risk for injury.

3. Ignoring Pain

This one isn’t just limited to high school athletes, or any athlete, as we’ve all done ignored some pain over the years.  And it’s not a good thing, especially when it comes to athletic performance and potential for injury.  Think of pain as the signal from your body’s alarm system.  When you feel pain, it’s basically your body saying “something isn’t right and you need to do something about it.”

If your son or daughter ignores the pain, there is a chance that it will eventually go away, but it will most likely cause some type of compensation along the way and that can mean an injury is just around the corner.  So don’t let them ignore their pain and get them checked out by someone who specializes in sports injuries.  And remember you don’t need a prescription to see a physical therapist – read more about that here – “The Express Lane For Eliminating Your Aches & Pains

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4) Inadequate Hydration

When it comes to dehydration, most of you probably picture someone who is severely dehydrated laying flat on their back.  And while that is one possible scenario, that's not the type of dehydration I'm talking about with regards to athletes and their performance.  It’s important to understand that dehydration is typically not due to one day of dehydration but rather a small amount of dehydration for a few days in a row that accumulates into a dehydrated state.  And it also doesn't only occur during warm weather.  This cumulative dehydration is commonly overlooked until it's too late - i.e. going down with heat exhaustion or, worse, heat stroke.

Surprisingly, most athletes don't hydrate properly and live their lives in a state of mild dehydration.  Mild dehydration (even just 1-2%) has been shown to have a negative effect on athletic performance.  And it also increases the chances of getting injured due to not being able to perform optimally and being fatigued.

If you want to learn more about proper hydration recommendations for athletes (before, during, and after playing) and when to/not to use sports drinks (i.e. gatorade) then check out this article - "Hydration Recommendations For Athletes"

5) Not Warming Up Properly

When I watch most high school athletes/teams warm up, I usually just close my eyes and shake my head.  Implementing a proper warm-up is such an easy thing to do and it can have a big effect on performance and on injures.  If you're son/daughter has ever told you it takes them a few minutes of game time before they feel loose and ready to go, it's because they're not warming up properly.

A good dynamic warm-up will get the blood flowing and improve muscle activation so that your son/daughter is ready to go 100% when that first whistle blows.  A good dynamic warm-up will also help prevent injuries from happening - think muscle strains, ACL tears, etc.  If you want to read more details about dynamic warm-ups, then read this article I also wrote - "The Importance of a Dynamic Warm-Up"

Here is a video of a dynamic warm-up to try (geared for field sports):


6) Specializing in One Sport

Having your son or daughter specialize in one sport and play it year round is a surefire way to increase their chance of getting injured.  I get really fired up about this topic because it is so prevalent and theire is so much misinformation out there about it and, simply put, it can be detrimental to your child's health.

And I get why you might feel the need to have your son or daughter specialize in one sport - the social pressures from sports leagues, other parents, etc. has never been stronger.  Parents think that more is better, that early specialization is a matter of “competitive survival,” and that their child will be unable to achieve athletic success if they don’t specialize early - and it's simply not true.

Here are some alarming numbers from research on the topic of specializing in one sport:

  • Athletes who specialized in one sport were 70-93% more likely to be injured than children who played multiple sports.
  • Young athletes who spent more hours per week than their age playing one sport were 70% more likely to experience serious overuse injuries
  • A 2013 American Medical Society for Sports Medicine found that 88% of the college athletes they surveyed participated in more than one sport as a child.

Those numbers are huge numbers when it comes to injury risk and I hope it causes you to rethink the athletic path your son/daughter takes.

If you want to learn more about the negative effects of early sport specialization and the benefits of playing multiple sports, along with guidelines for sport participation, then check out "Early Sport Specialization is Killing Your Child's Health"

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7) Improperly Fitting Equipment

This is something that is not emphasized as much as it should be – especially at the youth and high school levels – and it can have serious consequences.  While I think it’s clear to everyone that improper fitting equipment or not using appropriate equipment can put kids at more risk for injury, it's not always put into action.  Many times this happens due to limited budgets for equipment and there are only so many choice available.  And then unfortunately, some kids get stuck with equipment that doesn’t fit them correctly, so make sure you check the fit of your child’s equipment.  If you are unsure of what the proper fit should be, talk with the coaches.

Making modifications to equipment can be dangerous too - which is something high school kids will try to do.  Sometimes kids will cut off parts of their equipment because it’s “annoying” or uncomfortable, so inspect his/her equipment to ensure it’s doing its job.

With regards to equipment, another aspect to be mindful of is if your child is actually using the equipment.  This is particularly true for mouthpieces, jockstraps, and chinstraps.  Safety equipment is of no benefit if it’s not being used.

8) Poor Sleep

Sleep quality has become one of the hot topics with regards to athletic performance and injures...and rightfully so!  A good night’s sleep is vitally important for good health and recovery from training/athletic activities.  Some people say it is just as important as eating right and regularly exercising.  Unfortunately, poor sleep (both length & quality) is an American epidemic and affects all ages:

  • At least 25% of 12 year-olds get less than the recommended amount of sleep.
  • Teenagers sleeping < 6 hours per night were 1.7 times more likely to get injured than those sleeping > 8 hours per night.

Multiple studies have shown that longer sleep has been shown to enhance athletic and physical performance.  In a study on collegiate basketball players, longer sleep was shown to significantly improve speed, accuracy, reaction times, and mental well-being.  The players increased their sleep to 10 hours a night for 5-7 weeks and at the end of that time, they ran significantly faster sprints, increased their shooting percentage, and had better reaction times.

A good night’s sleep is also vital to restoration of the body and mind – or, to put it another way, vital to physical recovery.  During sleep, the body increases blood supply to muscles and human growth hormone is release, allowing the body to repair and grow.  And the longer you sleep, the more restoration/recovery takes place.  If your sleep is cut short, your body won’t get the necessary time build and recover.

And I get that getting your son or daughter to go to sleep earlier isn't an easy task, but it's something that you can actually have a big influence on.  And the effects of more sleep can have a huge, positive impact on a lot of different areas other than performance and decreased injury risk.  Regular, quality sleep also:

  • Improves concentration & productivity
  • Improves problem solving skills
  • Enhances memory performance
  • Improves learning / retention of new skills

Those are all things that not only will improve their performance in sports but also improve their performance in school!

If you still need another reason to get your child on a better sleep schedule, then you should know that poor sleep is strongly linked to weight gain.  Children with short sleep duration were 89% more likely to be obese than children who got the recommended amount of sleep.


As you can see, there are many factors that can increase the likelihood of your son/daughter getting injured - many of which can be controlled and worked on.  And I know there are other factors that could have been mentioned here, but I felt these 8 were some of the most common ones out there and ones that you & your child can act upon.

If you're looking for some more guidance on how to help your son or daughter get back to playing as soon (and safely) as possible, then I highly recommend reading this article "7 Mistakes Athletes Make When They Get Injured"


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