Participating in sports boosts healthy behaviors and promotes a healthy lifestyle. Too much activity, however, puts children at risk for injuries. There has been a significant increase in the number of overuse injuries in recent years, with most of these occurring due to sports participation. With sport specialization taking place at a much younger age than ever before, an increase in repetitive movement can cause trauma to the bones, muscles, joints and tendons. Overuse injuries represent about 50% of all pediatric sport-related injuries.
Overuse injuries can be characterized by four different types of pain:
- Pain after activity
- Pain during activity that doesn’t affect performance
- Pain during activity that limits performance
- Unrelenting pain even at rest
By modifying the youth athlete’s activity to include different sports activities that focus on different body functions—as well as providing ample breaks—overuse injuries can be prevented, and overall physical fitness can be maintained. If you notice your young athlete is experiencing personality changes, fatigue, lack of interest, chronic pain, or even seeming generally unenthused they are most likely suffering from overtraining.
Types of Youth Sports Injuries
These are the most common types of youth sports injuries:
- Sever’s Disease: Cause of heel pain in children, typically present during a growth spurt. It is an inflammation of the growth plate at the heel, which increases with running, jumping and activity. This results from repetitive stresses that cause pain and swelling of the growth plate.
- Osgood-Schlatter Disease: Cause of knee pain on the front. It is an inflammation of the growth plate at the top of the shinbone called the tibial tubercle. The patellar tendon attaches here at the bone. This inflammation is also caused by repetitive stresses such as running and jumping, causing pain.
- Little Leaguer’s Elbow: Cause of pain typically on the inside of the elbow joint. This condition is often seen with repetitive overhand throwing and pitching. The repetitive stress at the growth plates, ligaments and cartilage of the elbow become inflamed. Continuation of overhead throwing will result in more inflammation and pain.
- Jumper’s Knee: Cause of knee pain also on the front, but on the lower part of the kneecap. Repetitive use of the quadriceps muscles stresses the tendon where it attaches at the bottom of the kneecap. This leads to inflammation and a tendonitis of the patellar tendon.
- Stress Fractures/Reactions: Overuse stress fractures and reactions are due to repetitive stresses placed on the bones or growth plates. The muscles that attach at these areas overload the bones. Too much activity and stress will damage the bone, causing it to crack or damage the growth plate and cause it to widen. All of these stress injuries can lead to decreased growth and possible deformities.