What Are Overuse Injuries In Kids?
When your child first feels pain while playing a sport, they may brush it off as normal (In fact, many adults do as well!). It’s not uncommon for a child to not know what’s normal fatigue or muscle soreness, as opposed to an injury that needs time to recover. Just as the name suggests, an overuse injury in sports is when a part of the body (be it a muscle, tendon, ligament, or even a bone) is repeatedly put to use to the point that it develops an injury. Children are more prone to these because of their still-developing bodies. Overuse injuries occur when there’s lots of strain or force and little rest or recovery. It usually occurs gradually over time. In this blog, we will discuss some common overuse injuries as well as how you can help prevent overuse injuries in your child.
Common overuse injuries
Overuse injuries occur with repetitive use of a part of the body often past the point where pain is felt. It is often sport dependent, so different sports may have different areas of overuse. Overuse injuries include jumper’s knee, golf elbow, spondylolysis, shin splints, sever’s disease, swimmer’s shoulder, stress fractures, and strains or sprains.
Symptoms of overuse injuries in kids
Symptoms usually start off very mild and progress from there. The most common first sign of an of an overuse sports injury is pain that is not associated with an acute injury. This pain will worsen with increased activity and usage of the body part that is experiencing the pain. As a parent, you may also notice that your child’s form or technique is “off” as they try to play through the pain. On the other hand, you may notice that your child has decreased interest in going to practices or playing games. Swelling, redness, and warmth surrounding the area of injury is not uncommon.
Because overuse injuries occur gradually, there is a progression of symptoms from mild to severe as time goes by. At first, all that’s experienced may just be mild discomfort or mild pain that goes away after warming up. With time, the pain may go away while warming up, but will reappear near the end of the activity or sport. Next, the pain progresses to the point that it gets worse with activity. Finally, the injury reaches the point where pain is felt all the time.
Treatment and prevention of overuse injuries
Treatment will be specific to the exact type of sports injury your child has sustained. In the beginning stages of an overuse injury (while it’s mild), the best form of treatment is to give the body rest and relaxation.
Prevention includes watching out for symptoms and knowing when to take it easy. At the first sign of any symptoms of injury, have your child take it easy and take the day off from practice if necessary. Make sure your child has breaks in the year from playing the same sport. Taking at least 1 day off per week from training is helpful in preventing overuse injuries. It is also recommended that athletes should take a combined 3 months off per year from a specific sport (may be divided throughout the year in 1-month increments). The athlete should remain physically active during that time.
If you suspect your child has an overuse injury that is not improving with rest and relaxation or if they’re experiencing pain constantly, bring them in to see their pediatrician or to a pediatric urgent care. If you are in the Los Angeles area come see us at MVP Pediatric and Urgent Care.