3 Reasons Young Athletes Get Injured so Often

Football dog pile
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For teens and collegiate athletes who compete at the elite level, suffering an injury is commonplace, if not downright expected. Competing for that conference championship? Trying to make varsity? Expect to feel bruised, beaten up, and (more often than we’d like to admit) sprained, strained, and maybe even torn.

It’s a sad reality. In an effort to cut down on those injuries, researchers at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet are trying to figure out what factors affect the injury risk among young athletes.

In the study, researchers studied 680 elite athletes representing 16 different sports. All the athletes had previously completed surveys on their past injuries, as well as the volume and intensity of their training.

One immediate takeaway: “The incidence of injury is high in adolescent elite athletes,” said lead study author Philip von Rosen. “During the average week, one in three athletes was injured. Over a year, almost all of them had been injured at least once, and around 75% reported that they’d been seriously injured at least once during the year.”

So what were the factors? Athletes (both male and female) were 100% more likely to be injured when they increased the volume and intensity of their training, and cut down on sleep. (Maybe that sound familiar.)

Even more surprising: Athletes who made the above changes and expressed low self-esteem heightened their risk even more. Women were more heavily influenced; female athletes who increased the intensity, cut down on sleep, and suffered from low self-esteem tended to get injured more often and typically stayed on bench longer.

“The high risk of injury in adolescent elite athletes shows that early intervention injury-prevention strategies are needed in order to avoid long-term consequences of injury and to encourage continuing engagement in sport,” von Rosen concluded. That, and maybe more sleep.

Check out our injury-prevention training guide for tips.