Because they are fun and good for them, parents often forget how dangerous sports can be for their kids. Every year, more than 135,000 children — from 5 to 18 — nationwide find themselves in emergency rooms because of sports-related injuries. The most common diagnosis? Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), which are caused by blows or jolts to the head. They can disrupt the normal function of the brain. While TBIs can range from mild to severe, all should be taken seriously. The majority of TBIs are concussions, which is when the brain moves inside the skull and can even bang against the skull bone. This cerebral trauma can cause confusion, blurred vision, and memory loss. While team sports provide a wealth of emotional, social, and physical benefits for kids, it’s important to provide your young athlete with the proper protective gear and teach him to follow game regulations in order to avoid brain trauma and other serious injuries. These five team sports are the most likely to cause injury in young players.

  1. Football

    With about one million high schoolers in organized play, football has long been America’s most popular sport — and its most dangerous. This collision sport’s safety record is not good, with nearly twice the injuries of basketball — our country’s second most popular sport. High school football players are most at risk. Primarily because of their inexperience and smaller stature, high schoolers are twice as likely to be injured as college players.

    But high school athletes aren’t the only ones getting hurt. The numbers for young players is sobering: It’s estimated that every year, doctors treat 389,000 musculoskeletal injuries in players ages five to 14. Recent studies have also revealed an epidemic of extensive neck and head injuries, including concussions and football-related TBIs, which can lead to memory problems, concentration issues, speech impediments, and headaches.

  2. Basketball

    Is your son a budding Steph Curry? Then make sure he stretches before practicing those jump shots and layups because this sport can spur serious strains and sprains in the lower (and upper) extremities. In fact, one study showed that almost a quarter of all basketball-related injuries involve the ankle.

    Basketball is one of the only sports in which male ball players are more likely to be hospitalized than their female counterparts. Of the more than 375,000 basketball injuries that require visits to the emergency room every year, 75 percent are sustained by adolescent boys. What’s more, limbs and ligaments are not the sole concern: basketball-related TBIs have increased 70 percent in the past 10 years.

  3. Soccer

    Over the past 30 years, participation in high school soccer has increased five times over — and this intensely physical sport only shows signs of increasing in popularity. But future Pelés and Beckhams would do well to proceed with some caution, with high school players sustaining some 400,000 injuries a year. Soccer-playing boys are at highest risk for ankle sprains as well as thigh and upper leg strains. Additionally, knee injuries — that can end a budding career — account for nearly a third of all soccer-related surgeries. But the body part yet again at great risk? Not surprisingly, the brain. Approximately two out of three soccer injuries that came from boys heading the ball were classified as concussions.

  4. Baseball

    America’s beloved national pastime has more contact injuries than one would expect. The majority of players’ injuries are due to contact with a ball, bat, or another player. Though the rate of baseball injuries has decreased over the past 10 years, one study shows that the severity of injuries is greater for boys.

    Of the injuries caused by being hit by a batted ball, four in 10 caused fractures, lacerations, or concussions. There are even reports of sustaining a coma from a batted ball and hemorrhaging in the brain after being hit by a bat. (The reason? Failing to wear the protective gear required by the fielding team.) Baseball also sees the most over-use injuries. Boys who start in Little League report the highest injury rate in elbows, mostly due to repetitive pitching and improper technique.

  5. Lacrosse

    Lacrosse is the fastest-growing high school sport in the nation. In the last few years, varsity lacrosse teams have increased 200 percent nationwide. As its popularity has grown, so has its injured lists. This collision sport is responsible for injuries in ankles, upper legs, and knees. An estimated one in every 10 injuries sustained during lacrosse games and practices is classified a concussion — the sport’s most common above-the-waist injury. Most worrisome, however, is the rising rate of commotio cordis in teenage male lacrosse players, in which a nonpenetrating blow to the chest from a shot causes ventricular fibrillation, which can result in death despite an otherwise healthy heart.

Preventing injuries

These five team sports are not the only ones that put players at risk for TBIs and other serious injuries. Many other kids’ sports, including gymnastics and ice hockey, also have high concussion rates. To help protect your child from injury, follow the safety tips at And always insist on proper protective gear, especially during practice. Some 62 percent of sports-related injuries occur during practice, yet only one out of three parents reports taking game-day safety precautions for practice.

See the list of the 5 most dangerous sports for girls.

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Updated: June 18, 2019