As student-athletes head back to the practice fields late this summer, injuries are going to happen. Despite concerted efforts by physical therapists and others to reduce and prevent sports injuries, it’s simply impossible to eliminate them from all sports and recreational activities.

So in order to ensure injuries are diagnosed and treated quickly, before they worsen, it’s paramount that parents and guardians are able to quickly identify the signs of possible injury – ailments that aren’t always obvious during practice or competition, but which may manifest later on at home.

“Injuries from youth sports are almost impossible to avoid…” states a flyer for parents created by STOP Sports Injuries, on youth injury prevention organization initiated by the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) in 2007. “Most children will let you know when they are hurt, but for those kids who try to tough it out, parents and caregivers should watch for signs on an injury.”

This includes signs of musculoskeletal injuries such as possible sprains, tears, and breaks. But it also includes signs that a young athlete’s sustained a concussion at practice or in competition – an ailment that’s becoming increasingly common in youth sports.

“The rates at which concussions are rising may in part be due to the rise in youth sports participation and also better diagnostic skills/training for coaches and sports medicine professionals,” said Alan L. Zhang, MC, from the University of California San Francisco Medical Center and lead author of a concussion study recently presented to the AOSSM. “The trend is alarming, however, and the youth population should definitely be prioritized for ongoing work in concussion diagnosis, education, treatment, and prevention.”

So with sports youth sports injuries, the importance of parents being empowered to identify the signs a youth may be injuries and require treatment cannot be overstated.

Signs for parents to watch out for include:

  • Headaches, lightheadedness or dizziness, which may indicate a concussion.
  • Limping or an appearance of pain when putting weight on and/or using a particular part of the body.
  • Difficulty standing, sitting, stepping or moving around normally.
  • Tingling, numbness or weakness in the limbs, fingers or toes.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Sharp pain during practice, games or any physical activity.

Should a parent identify one or more of these signs, he or she should take their child into a physical therapist or a physician for a thorough sports injury evaluation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 30 million children and adolescents in the U.S. participate in youth sports. Just the high school-aged students within this group account for around 2 million injuries and 500,000 doctor visits each year. Of those under 14, 3.5 million receive medical treatment for sports injuries.

“Young athletes are not miniature adults,” said Butch Doughit, a physician with Northeast Orthopedics (New York) said during a 2013 STOP Sports Injuries forum for parents and coaches. “They’re still growing. The old idea of no pain, no gain does not apply with a child. Give them time to build back up again. Talk to your kids and listen to them.”

In many cases, visiting a physical therapist can be an ideal starting point for such evaluations. Trained to provide sports injury assessments for athletes of all ages, your local physical therapist team will triage the injury and, if necessary, provide direction if further diagnosis and treatment are necessary.