As sporting events grow more competitive among all ages, there has been an increase in the number of injuries that are forcing some kids to sit on the sidelines. Acute injuries are the result of a single event, such as a fall that causes a broken wrist or a misstep that causes an ACL tear. Overuse injuries are another type of injury, and they are occurring at an alarming rate in children. An overuse injury occurs over time, and involves injuring a tissue, such as a tendon, from repeated stress. Contributing factors to overuse injuries include too many repetitions, poor biomechanics, weakness, and not enough rest. Another contributing factor to this trend is the fact that many kids are “specializing” in one sport at a younger age.
What can be done to prevent overuse injuries in young athletes? First of all, let the child enjoy an off season. If your child is crazy about sports, simply playing different sports in different seasons can do the trick. Each sport requires different skills that utilize different movements. Simply changing the sport changes the stresses placed on the musculoskeletal system and can help prevent overuse injuries. Second, make sure each practice or game starts and ends with a proper warm-up and cool-down. If your child is participating in a training program, a good rule of thumb is not to increase the training program or activity more than 10% in a week. By controlling the rate of increase in running distance or weight lifted, the athlete gives his/her body the chance to respond properly and recover from the added stress of the increase in training. Also, if your child is participating in a training program that includes weight lifting, don’t forget about the trunk and other joint stabilizing muscles! These muscles are the basis for all of our movement. Without a strong trunk or strong stabilizing muscles, your body won’t be able to properly generate the movements, with the force desired. Lastly, if an athlete has any signs or symptoms of an injury, they should seek out medical care without delay.
Overuse injuries are due to repeated, improper stresses places on joints, muscles and tendons. Balance between strength and flexibility, proper biomechanics, and a proper training program can help prevent overuse injuries, even in young athletes. The STOP Sports Injuries website is a great resource for parents, athletes, and coaches on how to avoid injuries and even has recommendations for different sports. A physical therapist is also a great resource for any questions regarding injuries, biomechanics, muscle strengthening, and training. Beyond the Clinic has a number of physical therapists in the Portland metro area, including PTs who enjoy working with young athletes and children, who can help you recover from an injury, answer your questions, and get you started on the right path to recovery.
Give us a call at: (503) 496-0385 to find out more!
(Thanks to Crystal Bridges, DPT for the blog post!)