Young Athletes Are Playing Hurt, Report Says

A new study shows many young athletes play hurt, and all too often, they're suffering injuries that could have been prevented. Safe Kids Worldwide found kids are being hit with overused injuries, dehydration, even head injuries.

But guess what? They keep playing.

Kids are playing at a much higher level than we did back in the day. So if you have a pitcher, who shows potential, he may be playing on two or even three different teams at once. And Safe Kids found there's a lot of pressure to stay in the game when you're hurt.

If playing through the pain were a sport, 16-year-old Cody Mitchell would be a champion.

"Most of my pain is muscle, because they had to do so much to get to the bone,” said Cody Mitchell

Mitchell fractured his spine playing soccer and needed surgery. The Cartersville High School sophomore has also broken his arm, dislocated a shoulder, and had tendonitis before this back injury.

"I would be a whole lot more cautious next time, I just didn't want to get taken out. I wanted to play,” said Mitchell.

And a new Safe Kids study shows a third of young athletes who play team sports suffer injuries severe enough to require medical treatment. But nearly 90 percent of parents underestimate how much time kids need to recover.

So, Emory pediatric orthopedic surgeon Dr. Nicholas Fletcher says a lot of kids play hurt.

"Kids think if they take a week off, they'll get kicked off the team, or their parents won't let them play anymore. It's very important for the kid to stay on the team, so a lot of times they will mask the injury,” said Dr. Nicholas Fletcher.

Safe Kids found half of the coaches said they'd felt pressure -- either from kids or parents -- to play an injured child. And nearly a third of kids said they would play hurt, unless their coach made them stop.

Dr. Fletcher says kids who don't heal, can suffer lifelong problems.

“One of the biggest take home messages I try to convey to coaches is that this 11-year-old also has a 12-year-old and a 13-year-old and a 14-year-old season,” said Dr. Fletcher.

Dr. Fletcher says he sees a lot of young players with ACL tears, hip injuries, and throwing injuries. A lot of those problems are from overuse. He says if a young athlete is not given time to heal, and proper treatment, he or she can be left with lifelong problems.

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