More and more children are taking part in recreational and competitive sports in the U.S. This is a great thing, but we are also beginning to see more injuries in young players, especially overuse injuries.
Overuse injuries occur when there is damage to the bone, muscle, ligament or tendon due to repetitive stress. A repetitive injury is unlike a broken bone or torn tendon, which happens instantly. Overuse injuries usually stem from doing too much too soon, doing too much of one particular activity or from using improper technique.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), half of all sports injuries in children and teens are from overuse. Julie Zielinksi, M.D., a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Carilion Clinic’s Institute for Orthopaedics and Neurosciences said there are a couple reasons for this.
“In the past, children took part in different sports or activities throughout the year, but today it has become quite common for a child to specialize in one sport and play it all year round; oftentimes playing the same sport on more than one team,” she explains. “Since children’s muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones and growth plates are all still growing, continuous repetitive movements coupled with over training and not enough rest can put a child at a much greater risk for overuse injuries.”
Symptoms of overuse injuries include:
- Pain that is not tied to an injury such as a fall
- Changes in form or technique
Another subtle sign is that your child might not be as interested or eager to go to practice as she once was.
“If your child is repeatedly complaining of pain, a rest period might help,” says Dr. Zielinski. “But if the pain persists despite some time off, talk to your child’s doctor.”
The good news is that most overuse injuries can be prevented. To keep your growing young athlete happy and healthy, Dr. Zielinski recommends the following:
- Encourage your child to try a variety of different sports and activities to help avoid injury and develop a well-rounded athlete.
- Do not allow your child to play one sport year round. Playing different sports and regular breaks will help prevent injuries and aid in skill development.
- Give your child adequate time to rest and recover between games and practices.
- Avoid focusing on one sport too early.
- Limit the number of teams your child plays on in one season.
You are your child's biggest fan, but also their biggest advocate during this sports season. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have so you can keep your athlete healthy and happy.
If your child is injured on the field, Carilion Clinic Sports Medicine is here for all your post-game needs. Visit our Saturday-morning sports injury clinic every Saturday from mid-August through November at 8:30 a.m.
Call-ahead appointments are preferred in Roanoke and Blacksburg. For walk-in appointments, please register between 8:30 and 9 a.m.
- 2331 Franklin Road, Roanoke...........540-512-1139
- 215 Gilbert Street, Blacksburg .........540-961-8061
- 25 Crossing Lane, Suite 2, Lexington
(walk-ins only, 8:30 – 9:30 a.m.)
Visit CarilionClinic.org/sports-clinics for more.