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Warning Signs of Abuse or Neglect in Sports


The following is a list of possible warning signs of child abuse or neglect. (Note: the presence of any one warning sign does not automatically mean that the child is has been abused or neglected, and some warning signs overlap between types of abuse).

Sad basketball player

Warning signs of possible emotional abuse 

  • Being more compliant and/or seeking affection more than usual
  • Low self-esteem and/or low self-confidence
  • Severe or sudden depression, anxiety, or aggression
  • Difficulty making or keeping friends
  • Delayed physical, emotional, and/or intellectual development
  • Headaches or stomachaches with no medical basis
  • Caregiver (or coach) who belittles the child, denies love or attention, and seems unconcerned about the child's problems or well-being
  • Avoidance and/or fear of specific situations or people

Warning signs of possible physical abuse

  • Frequent or unexplained injuries, such as bruises, scratches, , fractures, broken bones, bites, cuts, black eyes, and/or burns
  • Explanations for injuries that do not make sense
  • Specific patterns of burns, bruises, or other injuries that may suggest the use of an instrument or inappropriate physical contact
  • Cigarette burns anywhere on the body
  • Aggressive, disruptive, and/or destructive actions
  • Abuse of pets or other animals
  • Passive, withdrawn, and robot-like behavior
  • Fear of going home or seeing parents or fear of participating in sports
  • Injuries that appear after a child has not been at school or sports practice for several days
  • Questionable clothing that may cover injuries to arms or legs