Organized sports are a great way for kids to develop leadership skills and confidence while getting the physical activity they need to stay healthy.
As a sports medicine specialist, Carlos Uquillas, MD, has extensive experience diagnosing and treating a variety of painful musculoskeletal injuries in children, many of which relate to overuse.
Because overuse injuries are preventable, Dr. Uquillas offers some insight into what you should know as a parent of a young athlete to reduce your child’s risk factors for unnecessary injuries and pain.
Recognizing an overuse injury
An overuse injury describes damage to your child’s tendons, ligaments, muscles, or bones caused by repetitive stress. As kids are still growing, their bodies are less resilient to this stress and more susceptive to injuries.
Physical stress is important for healthy and strong muscles and bones. As your children are physically active, their tissue continues going through a remodeling process where it breaks down and builds back up. If tissue breaks down faster than it can build up, your child may experience an overuse injury.
Common types of overuse injuries include:
- Shin splints
- Runner’s knee
- Pitcher’s elbow
- Swimmer’s shoulder
- Achilles tendinitis
Young children also may not be able to recognize or communicate early warning signs of repetitive use injuries, resulting in a worsening of their condition before they receive treatment. These warning signs may include discomfort or pain before, during, or after physical activity in their knees, shoulders, hips, or back.
Overuse injury prevention tips
The key to preventing overuse injuries in child athletes is to ensure they are engaging in a healthy balance of physical activities and rest. Kids should take at least one day off from organized physical activity each week to give their body and mind time to recover.
Other tips for preventing overuse injuries in kids include:
Get a sports physical
A thorough physical exam can ensure your child can safely participate in their chosen sport. The exam focuses on their flexibility and strength and determines if existing health issues may increase your child’s risk for overuse or other types of sports-related injuries.
Practice proper warmups and cooldowns
Many kids get injured because they don’t warm up properly before physical activity or because they don’t take time to cool down afterward.
Speak with your child’s coach about warmup and cooldown exercises your child can do at home, so they can stay flexible and lower their risk for muscle overuse and other sports-related injuries.
Participate in cross training
To reduce unnecessary stress on certain parts of the body, your child should engage in different cross-training activities to build up their endurance.
Even if basketball is their chosen sport, they can increase their strength and reduce injury risks by engaging in other activities like swimming and biking to work out all of their muscles.
Don’t specialize until later
Ideally, your child should avoid playing only one sport when they’re still young. When a child focuses too intently on just one area of athletics, they may be more likely to experience frequent overuse injuries.
Kids that shine in one area may also be at increased risk for early burnout that ultimately causes them to lose interest in being an athlete.
For more tips on preventing overuse injuries in your young athlete, schedule a consultation online or by calling the office of Carlos A. Uquillas, MD, nearest you today.