Signs young athletes might have an injury

January signals the start of tryouts for spring sports like baseball, softball, tennis, track and volleyball. But, as a parent, do you know the signs of injury to look for when your young athlete gets back on the field, court or track?

“From the stands, it can be difficult to see what’s happening with your child after an injury or collision,” said Geisinger fellowship trained family and sports medicine physician, Dr. Aaron Dawes. “But there are signs and symptoms you can watch out for before and after the game.”

Here are four things to look out for if you suspect your child has a sports injury.

Unexplained headache

If your child leaves the field with an unexplained headache or nausea, they could be dealing with dehydration.

“It’s often much cooler early in the spring season, and kids tend to forget to drink enough water when it isn’t as hot,” Dawes said. “Dehydration can cause symptoms like nausea, dizziness and headache, but studies show that they may also be more prone to concussions and other injuries without that fluid to act as a shock absorber.”


Thanks to awareness and advocacy campaigns in professional sports, concussion awareness is growing every day. However, sports like track, volleyball and baseball aren’t commonly associated with the condition, leaving them underdiagnosed.

“If your child is dizzy or seems confused after a violent shake or sudden impact to the head and neck, they may have a concussion,” Dawes said. “If this is the case, it’s important to call their doctor or physical therapist for evaluation and treatment.”


You may associate sprains and strains with an adult weekend warrior, but our children are also susceptible to these conditions. An expected or awkward twist or turn in the joints may cause the muscles and ligaments supporting the joint to over-stretch or tear, leading to pain, stinging and weakness.

“Most sprains and strains heal themselves with rest and regular icing, but if your child doesn’t notice an improvement in one to two weeks, you might want to consult with their doctor,” Dawes said.


If your child is suddenly out of breath during exercises that normally come easily, it might be time to visit your doctor. Asthma is a common culprit, but breathlessness can also be a sign of an irregular heart.

“Ideally, your young athlete should have a full examination done before every season,” Dawes said. “In-depth physicals and heart scans can protect against changes to their heartbeat, rate and rhythm, as well as their lung health and capacity.”

If your child does experience an injury or health issue, it’s important to make sure they heal fully before they return to sports.

Your child’s doctor will be able to give your family the full details for rest and recovery, as well as healthy habits and tips to strengthen their bodies and prevent future injuries.

“They’re still kids, and they think they’re invincible,” said Dr. Dawes. “That’s where we come in.”


This is one in a continuing series of articles on sports and medicine provided by Geisinger.


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