Knee Injuries in Youth Sports – Part 1

knee injuries in youth sport








The number of adolescents and pre-adolescents who participate in organized sports has increased over the last couple of decades. With this increase has come a corresponding increase in sports injuries.

Knee injuries are very common in growing bodies and can be devastating for both the injured athlete and their team, often costing a whole season of play. Strategies to reduce the number of such injuries and to ensure prompt and accurate diagnosis are critical.

Injuries related to sports participation fall into two types of trauma: chronic (due to repetitive trauma) and acute (due to a single traumatic event).


  • Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease Pain at the shin-bone just below the knee cap. It’s recommended that activity is modified for 1-2yr
  • Sindig-Larson-Johansson disease – Pain at lower pole of knee cap. Similar recovery period to Osgoode Schlatter’s.
  • Anterior Knee Pain—or patella femoral syndrome, is often passed off as growing pains. One of the most difficult adolescent knee injuries to sort out and treat.



  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury—Non-contact injuries of the ACL are becoming more common than contact injuries. Adolescent females are at high risk. Combination injuries with MCL or menisci are common. Surgical reconstruction is needed if the adolescent wishes to continue participating in “stop-and-start” sports. That means a year out of your sport.
  • Meniscal injury—The crescent-shaped cartilage between the thigh bone and shin bone.  Usually requires surgical repair under arthroscopy.


The Player

Being out for such a long time can mean they feel they have fallen behind their peers or may miss certain opportunities. In the case of chronic injuries, their whole relationship with sport is massively affected. Playing sport causes pain and is no longer seen as a source of fun. Not being able to play at previous levels can lead to a loss of confidence, frustration and when added to the pressures of being a teenager, depression.

The Parent

No one likes to see their child upset or in pain.  The parent can often feel helpless and just as frustrated as the player. These long term injuries can often end up being very expensive in physiotherapy and specialist treatment.

The Coach

The frustration of never being able to field your best team. The frustration of being unsure how to deal with players in pain/discomfort. Players you had earmarked for success are sometimes never the same. When and how do you return to play?


Injuries that occur through contact often can’t be avoided. But as in most walks of life, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

Chronic injuries are a consequence of repeated abuse to the affected tissue. So we must learn to recognise when this abuse is occurring and then how to reduce it.

Acute injuries that are non-contact can also be predicted. And if we can predict, we can reduce.

Notice how I use the word reduce and not prevent. Prevention implies remove altogether and that is a claim we can’t make. Sometimes things just happen.

In part 2 I’ll discuss the “AT RISK” kids and what signs to look for.

Part 3 will look at the latest strategies  to minimise these devastating injuries and allow our kids to have a healthy love for sport and fulfil their potential – whatever that may be.

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