Sports Injuries

What are sports injuries?

Sports injuries can happen to young athletes at any level in any sport but also to any child or adolescent engaged in active play. Whether your child runs, jumps, throws, swims, dances, rows, skis or climbs, they may easily pull a muscle, twist an ankle or develop pain in a joint.

Sports Injuries at Seattle Children’s

Seattle Children’s experts work with families to diagnose, treat and prevent a wide range of sports injuries in children and teens of all abilities.

Our comprehensive sports medicine care involves:

  • Expert care for every athlete
    • Seattle Children’s has nationally recognized experts to take care of your child, whatever their sport, activity or ability level.
    • Minor injuries can sometimes be cared for at home. But many injuries – even those that seem minor – may require expert care from sports medicine doctors, advanced registered nurse practitioners, physician assistants, physical therapists, registered dietitians and sometimes surgeons in order to heal well.
  • Focus on injury prevention
    • Proper care for sports injuries helps get your child back to play as soon and as safely as possible. It’s also about preventing repeat or new injuries so your child can perform at their best.
    • We focus on getting your child healthy again and keeping them healthy as they get back into action.
  • Attention to the whole child
    • When children or adolescents are hurt in sports or other play, they need care from providers who know about growing bodies. Your team at Seattle Children’s is specially trained in pediatrics.
    • We provide coordinated, thorough care geared to your child’s exact stage of development. We consider your child’s age, feelings, goals, nutrition, growth and more.
  • Evidence-based treatment
    • Depending on your child’s injury, treatment could include both surgical and nonsurgical options, such as rehabilitation and nutrition.
    • We base your child’s treatment on the latest research about what works.

Common Sports Injuries

These are some of the most common sports injuries that happen to children and teens. 

  • Strains, sprains and tendonitis

    Strains happen when muscles or tendons get stretched too far or partially torn. Sprains happen when ligaments are stretched or torn. In tendonitis, a tendon becomes swollen and painful.

    Often you can take care of minor strains and sprains or tendonitis at home. But it’s important, especially with sprains, to check for broken bones or other problems and make sure the damage heals well.

    Read more about:


  • Growth-plate injuries

    When children or adolescents sprain ligaments, break bones or have other sports injuries, they may damage their growth plates. 

    Growth-plate injuries can permanently stop a bone’s development and change how the bone functions. If only part of the growth plate is damaged and stops working, the bone may grow in an uneven way. Read more.

  • Concussions

    A concussion is a brain injury caused by a bump or blow to the head or body that makes the brain move back and forth quickly inside the skull. Athletes do not have to lose consciousness or be “knocked out” to have a concussion.

    If your child returns to play before the brain heals, another bump or blow can cause more damage.

    Read more about concussions and our Concussion Program.

  • Neck and back pain

    Many motions in sports can strain, twist or compress the neck or back in ways that may cause pain. When athletes run into each other or fall down, the impact can injure the neck or back too. Overuse injuries, like a stress fracture in the low back (spondylolysis), can also happen.

    Read more about back pain and spondylolysis.

  • Shoulder and arm problems

    Throwing or reaching overhead, as in swimming, shooting a basketball or playing baseball, can cause a sudden injury, or a problem can form slowly from moving the same way again and again.

    Shoulder and arm problems from sports may include:

  • Hip pain

    The hip joint takes a lot of stress in sports that involve running, jumping or stopping and starting quickly. Tight or strained muscles in the hip or leg may cause pain around the hip joint. The hip may be injured during a fall too.

    Read about Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease (PDF) and hip fractures.

  • ITB syndrome

    Your child’s or adolescent’s iliotibial band (ITB) is a long tendon on the outside of their thigh. It connects the muscles around their hip and buttocks to the bone just below their knee.

    Pain may start at the outside of the knee where the tendon rubs over the bone. Sometimes the pain goes up the side of the thigh too. Often this problem happens from stressing the band over and over, such as by running.

  • Knee pain

    Knee pain can happen for many reasons.

    • The kneecap can get pulled to the side so it does not line up well with the knee joint (patellofemoral syndrome, PDF) or tight muscles on the front or back of the thigh can put pressure on the knee.
    • Swelling and pain can develop in the kneecap tendon or where the tendon connects the thigh muscles to the kneecap (Sinding-Larsen-Johansson syndrome, PDF) or to the shinbone (Osgood-Schlatter disease, PDF).
    • In jumper’s knee (patellar tendinitis, PDF) your child’s or adolescent’s kneecap tendon gets inflamed from being stressed over and over.

    Other problems with bones or ligaments in the knee can cause pain too. These include patellar dislocation and osteochondritis dissecans. Read more.

  • ACL, MCL and PCL injuries

    These are injuries to knee ligaments – the bands that keep your child’s or adolescent’s knee from wobbling or giving out when they move.

    When the knee is forced out of place, a ligament can tear partially or all the way. Tears often happen when children stop or change direction all of a sudden, or when they twist their knees or bend their knees sideways.

    Read more about anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial collateral ligament (MCL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injuries.

  • Meniscal tears

    The meniscus is a pad of tissue in your child’s or adolescent’s knee that absorbs shock. It lies between their shinbone and their thighbone.

    Most of the time, the pad tears when a child twists their knee all of a sudden. Read more.

  • Shin splints

    Shin splints are pain in the muscle on the front of your child’s or adolescent’s lower leg.

    Shin splints often happen after running on a hard surface or in shoes that do not absorb shock well. Training too hard or for too long, instead of building strength slowly over time, can cause shin splints too.

  • Chronic exertional compartment syndrome

    This is pain, swelling and sometimes other symptoms (like numbness or weakness) in muscles in 1 part of the body brought on by repeated movement. It happens when pressure goes up in a group of muscles wrapped by the same tissue (fascia). Often it affects the lower leg in athletes who run.

    Typically symptoms get worse as your child exercises. They go away after your child stops and then come back when your child does the same type of exercise again.

  • Sever’s syndrome

    Sever’s syndrome is pain at the back or bottom of your child’s or adolescent’s heel. It happens because the growth center of the heel bone gets irritated. The growth center is the place where new bone forms. It’s weaker than the rest of the bone, and it can get injured if stress is put on it again and again. Read more (PDF).

  • Fractures

    Fractures are cracks or breaks in bones.

    Most fractures are traumatic – meaning they happen because of an injury, such as falling while running, pedaling a bicycle or riding a skateboard. The bone simply gets more force than it can handle and it breaks.

    Stress fractures can happen when an athlete repeats the same position or motion over and over for a long time. The shinbone is a common place for stress fractures in activities that involve running or jumping.

    Read more about fractures and our Fracture Program.

Contact Us

Contact Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at 206-987-2109 for an appointment, a second opinion or more information.

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