Although athletic coaches often recognize severe injuries because of signs of pain and the inability to continue playing, they should also watch for early signs of physical problems (such as pain or limp) in young athletes. Coaches may have more difficulty spotting less severe injuries, however, because the pain is low grade and the athlete often ignores it. Repeat injuries may turn into overuse conditions, which can put the athlete on the sidelines for the rest of the season.
Because many sports injuries in young athletes, particularly elbow and knee injuries, are caused by excessive, repetitive stress on immature muscle-bone units, coaches should provide protection for the young athlete through proper conditioning, prompt treatment of injuries, and rehabilitation programs. Conditioning programs usually strive to make the young athlete physically fit by improving muscle strength, endurance, flexibility, and cardiorespiratory fitness. Conditioning, prompt treatment of injuries, and rehabilitation are particularly important because repetitive overuse injuries can lead to fractures, muscle tears, or bone deformities. Fortunately, such injuries are uncommon in young athletes, and prolonged pain is usually an early warning sign.
Coaches as well as parents also are responsible for creating a psychological atmosphere that fosters self-reliance, confidence, cooperation, trust, and a positive self-image. Young athletes must learn to deal with success and defeat in order to place events in a proper perspective. Some coaches and parents go too far in analyzing player performance. The promotion of the "win at all costs" ethic can have both short-term and long-term detrimental effects on impressionable young athletes.
Last reviewed and updated: July 2007
AAOS does not review or endorse accuracy or effectiveness of materials, treatments or physicians.
Copyright 2007 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons