Overuse injuries are very common among young athletes for a number of reasons. Kids and teens are still growing into their adult bodies, meaning muscles and tendons aren’t yet at full strength, and the pressure to excel means more kids are focusing on one sport and practicing year round, stressing the same muscle groups over and over without rest. Thankfully, new research has been published to help better treat those young athletes diagnosed with an overuse injury.
According to a recent study published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, overuse injuries accounted for 52 percent of patients seen at Boston’s Children’s Hospital during a random sports injury sample collected between 2000 and 2009. 61 percent of those overuse injuries were located in a lower extremity, like a foot or shin. Another study revealed that overuse injuries accounted for 7.7 percent of all injuries that kept students from playing a sport for at least one day, so it’s clear that something needs to be done in order to prevent and better treat these types of injuries.
American Medical Society Recommendations
In an effort to reduce overuse injuries among teens and young athletes, the American Medical Association issued a list of preventative recommendations. Here’s what the AMA recommends:
Avoid excessive focus on early intensive training and competition.
Limit repetitive movements, like pitching or uphill running.
Consider preventative training and alternate conditioning regimens.
Add scheduled rest periods.
Speak up about potential overuse injuries, because they likely won’t go away on their own. Oftentimes, when left untreated, they only get worse.
The American Medical Association also recommends that athletes undergo a pre-sport physical exam to assess their sport readiness and identify any potential injury patterns. These preventative measures give “parents a better basis for making a decision about their child’s participation,” said John DiFiori, head of the division of sports medicine at the University of California Los Angeles and lead author of the recommendations.
Additionally, although it isn’t completely controllable by parents or guardians, the AMA believes access to full-time sport trainers can help kids work through injuries and get them back on the field in a safe and timely manner. Unfortunately, because some athletes feel like talking to a trainer about an injury could force them to miss games, a lot of damage may already be done by the time an athlete works up the courage to talk to a trainer.
“The horse is often out of the barn by the time the athletic trainer gets involved,” said study co-author Dr. Lyle Micheli.