Changing the Culture of Youth Sports


Safe Kids Worldwide has just published a new survey that shows:

  • an alarming number of athletes are injured as a result of dirty play
  • that athletes hide injuries to stay in the game
  • that parents pressure coaches to play injured athletes.

Football Injured


Every day 3,400 children sustain a sports injury severe enough to go to the emergency room. Safe Kids Worldwide, with the support of Johnson & Johnson, conducted a survey of parents, coaches and young athletes to explore how the culture of sports may be keeping kids out of the game.


The report, “Changing the Culture of Youth Sports” takes an in-depth look at behaviors that may lead to serious injuries.

  • One in four young athletes reported it is normal to commit hard fouls and play rough to “send a message” during a game. This norm leads to a disturbing number of injuries: 33 percent of athletes report being hurt as the result of “dirty play” from an opponent.
  • Approximately 42 percent of players reported they have hidden or downplayed an injury during a game so they could keep playing, and 62 percent said they know someone else who has done so. Only 27 percent of coaches reported a player having hidden or downplayed an injury.
  • More than half of athletes reported playing while injured. Reasons given include not wanting to let the team down or not wanting to be benched.
  • More than half of coaches reported being pressured by a parent or player to put an athlete back into a game when a child has been injured.

Warmup   Warming up!      Hydrating Hydrating


With kids heading back to school next month, Safe Kids has some strategies for teens, parents and coaches to help keep young athletes safe while playing sports:


Culture-Changing Strategies

  • Set the ground rules at the beginning of the season. Coaches bring together parents and athletes before the season begins to agree on the team’s approach to prevent injuries.
  • Teach athletes ways to prevent injuries. Proper technique, strength training, warm-up exercises and stretching can go a long way to preventing injuries.

Stretching Stretching

  • Prevent overuse injuries. Encourage athletes to take time off from playing only one sport to prevent overuse injuries and give them an opportunity to get stronger and develop skills learned in another sport.
  • Encourage athletes to speak up when they’re injured. Remove injured athletes from play.
  • Put an end to dirty play and rule-breaking. Call fouls that could cause injuries.
  • Get certified. Learn first aid, CPR, AED use and injury prevention skills.

Visit Fall Prevention & Sports Safety for downloadable educational tips to share with coaches, parents and young athletes.


Safe Kids Oregon works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the number one cause of death for children in the United States.  Safe Kids Oregon is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury.  Safe Kids Oregon was founded in 1995 and is led by Oregon Public Health.  Click here for information on other Injury Areas.