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What are the safest sports for teens?

By The Health News Team | August 16, 2023
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Has your child shown an interest in participating in sports? Perhaps they want to play in a soccer club or join the school's wrestling team. But when deciding which athletic activities are appropriate for your young athlete, it’s crucial that safety is among the top priorities.

"Playing sports is generally great for those at a young age," says Adam Prince, a physician assistant at Sharp Grossmont Hospital Care Clinic. “Sports can have a positive impact on physical, mental and social health, but different sports have different benefits and drawbacks."

According to the Healthy Sport Index, developed by the Aspen Institute Project Play and Hospital for Special Surgery, some sports are safer than others, based on the frequency and kinds of sports-related injuries. The index merges data and expert analysis to help identify the benefits and risks of participating in the 10 most popular high school sports. It was created so that athletes, parents, educators and others can make informed decisions about sports based on a child’s needs.

Divided into categories to determine a sport’s overall safety score, the index considers overall injury rate (accounting for 30% of the score), expert opinion (25%), time loss due to injury (15%), concussion rate (15%), injuries requiring surgery (10%) and nonfatal catastrophic injuries or illnesses (5%). These categories were weighted based on how the public, parents, media and others view how relevant the information is in assessing the risk of playing sports.

The index determined the safest sport any high school athlete can play is tennis. Overall, tennis was found to lead to low injuries, concussions, time loss due to injuries, surgery and catastrophic injuries in high school athletes.

“Tennis requires endurance, power, speed, strength, balance and flexibility,” says Prince. “Tennis is good on the joints and muscles of young athletes, especially when they learn the proper form and technique.”

In contrast, contact sports led to more injuries than sports featuring little to no contact. This is due, in part, to the high risk of a collision, fall or injury. Sports such as soccer, basketball, lacrosse, football and wrestling were related to higher injury rates.

“It’s crucial to take note that these results are based off a study,” says Prince. “Injuries occur in every sport.”

How To Prevent Injuries

Whatever sport your child decides to play, it’s important to know how they can reduce the likelihood of injury. Here are five ways teen athletes can keep themselves safe:


Warm up and stretch.

Take time to deliberately stretch before each sports activity. This helps loosen your muscles, so they have the right contraction with every move. Try to hold each stretch for 20 seconds.



Devise a plan to do cardiovascular exercises, strength training and exercises for flexibility. It’s important to tackle different muscle groups to help create balance in your body.


Eat a nutritious diet.

Having a healthy diet and eating a nutritional meal or snack before and after exercise is a great way to keep the body nourished and fueled. It’s essential for you eat enough to meet your body's daily energy needs.



Make sure to rest after playing any sport or performing strenuous activities. Your body needs time to cool down and to help sore muscles and joints properly recover. Each week should include at least one rest day. Never play through pain.


Wear properly fitting gear.

The gear you wear during practice or competition must be properly fitted. It’s crucial to have the right equipment to ensure your body is as protected as possible. However, protective equipment and gear do not guarantee you won't sustain injuries while participating in sports.

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