What Every Parent Should Know About Overuse Injuries and Young Athletes

Kids should be encouraged to play their favorite sports — whether it’s competing on the baseball or soccer field, tumbling on gymnastic or wrestling mats, or diving into the pool. But with more children and adolescents participating in organized sports, overuse injuries are on the rise.

Overuse injuries are defined as damage to a bone, ligament, tendon, or muscle caused by repetitive actions. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that half of all sports medicine injuries in children and teens result from overuse.

Kids at risk

As a parent, your goal is to instill a love of physical activity. You want your child to be a well-rounded athlete who can enjoy exercise, sports, and physical activity for a lifetime.

Children and adolescents are at greater risk for overuse injuries because their bones aren’t fully developed and, as a result, are less resilient to stress. Younger athletes also have less self-awareness and may not recognize the signs of overuse, such as a dull ache in the shoulder or a twinge in the hip.

Because of this, it’s up to you to be aware of when your athlete plays and to check in with any possible symptoms of overuse.

Listen for complaints. You might hear your child mention discomfort in a particular area, such as the knee, after activity is over. Pain during the activity, especially pain that affects athletic performance, is of concern. If pain becomes chronic, even when your child is at rest, it’s definitely time to visit North Jersey Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Institute.

Preventing injury

Excessive training programs can lead to overuse pretty quickly. A balanced physical fitness program helps your child become a better athlete and can prevent overuse injuries.

Prior to your child beginning a sport, schedule a physical evaluation. We can provide that here at North Jersey Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Institute.

It’s important, too, that your child athlete stays active during the offseason. Suddenly jumping in to a high level of activity after a winter of sitting on the couch playing video games can be a recipe for disaster. If your child’s team doesn’t have a specific offseason training schedule, ask the coach about activities your child can do to maintain a baseline level of fitness.

Sports specification

Specializing in only one sport before the late teens can make a child more susceptible to injury. Many children who excel in one sport early on and focus only on it get injured or burn out before they even reach college.

Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to stick to just one sport each season — say, soccer in the summer and basketball in the fall.

Resting and ramping up gradually

Your child may have a lot of energy, but taking at least one day off each week from organized sports play gives the body the chance to rest and repair adequately.

Overuse injuries can often occur when your child does too much too soon. Ensure that your child increases weekly training time or mileage (for runners) no more than 10% each week. Cross-training is critical, too. If your child wants to do more activity, have them train on a different modality. For example, runners can hit the stationary bike or swimmers might try a light jog on the treadmill.

We want to help you keep your child athlete playing at the highest level. We work to prevent injury, and we’re here to address it if it should happen. Contact North Jersey Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Institute when you need support.

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