Feature Article

Sports injuries in children

Tom Cross



The number of children with sports injuries seen in sports medicine practices is increasing. The usual outcome is full recovery, but the consequence of a missed diagnosis of a more serious condition may be significant to the child.

Key Points

  • The number of overweight children is increasing. However, children who are more active are training more intensively and for longer periods of time in one or several sports.
  • There are significant differences in the types of injuries sustained by children and adults. These are due to the physiology of growing bones.
  • Osteochondroses are conditions characterised by disordered endochondral ossification of the epiphyseal growth centre. Osgood–Schlatter’s disease and Sever’s disease are two relatively common osteochondroses. A less common osteochondrosis, osteochondritis dissecans, is discussed in detail here.
  • The aphorism that ‘not everything that presents as a sports medicine problem should be strictly regarded as a sports injury’ is true in both adults and children. Differential diagnoses, such as tumours, infections, inflammatory conditions and serious hip pathologies masquerading as knee pain, should be considered in patients with atypical signs and symptoms.
  • There are general guidelines that should be followed for training the young athlete and also more specific guidelines for particular sporting activities.