Overuse Injuries in Children
In recent years, doctors have begun to see a significant increase in overuse injuries in children. In most cases, these injuries are associated with sports-related activity.
Sports participation promotes the physical and emotional well being of children, and also encourages the lifelong habit of exercise. Although the benefits of athletic activity are significant, too much activity can lead to injury.
Overuse injuries occur gradually over time, when an athletic activity is repeated so often, areas of the body do not have enough time to heal between playing. For example, overhand pitching in baseball can be associated with injuries to the elbow, and swimming is often associated with injuries to the shoulder.
Because young athletes are still growing, they are at a greater risk for injury than adults. The consequences of overdoing a sport can include injuries that impair growth, and may lead to long-term health problems.
When a young athlete repeatedly complains of pain, a period of rest from the sport is necessary. If pain persists, it is important to seek proper medical treatment. To ensure the best possible recovery, athletes, coaches, and parents must follow safe guidelines for returning to the game.
Overuse injuries occur in a wide range of sports, from baseball and basketball to track, soccer, and gymnastics. Some of these injuries are unique to a certain sport, such as throwing injuries of the elbow and shoulder that are prevalent in baseball players. The most common overuse injuries involve the knee and foot.
Overuse injuries can affect muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, and growth plates. In children, these structures are still growing, and the growth is generally uneven. Bones grow first, which pulls at tight muscles and tendons. This uneven growth pattern makes younger athletes more susceptible to muscle, tendon, and growth plate injuries.
Coaches and parents should be aware of the more common signs of overuse injury. These include:
- Pain. This pain cannot be tied to an acute injury, such as from a fall. The pain often increases with activity
- Changes in form or technique
- Decreased interest in practice
Common Overuse Injuries in Children
· Sever’s Disease (Sever's disease is one of most common causes of heel pain in children)
· Osgood-Schlatter Disease (children have pain at the front of the knee due to inflammation of the growth plate at the upper end of the tibia (shinbone))
· Jumpers Knee
· Throwing Injuries in the Elbow
· Stress Fractures
· Stress Reaction of Growth Plates (Physis)
· Strains & Sprains
Many overuse injuries in children can be prevented. Key to prevention is to avoid overdoing any single sport, and to give growing bodies adequate rest between practices or games.
- Limit the number of teams in which your child is playing in one season. Kids who play on more than one team are especially at risk for overuse injuries.
- Do not allow your child to play one sport year round — taking regular breaks and playing other sports is essential to skill development and injury prevention.