Keep Your Kids in the Game!

Within the next couple of weeks, fall sports will wrap up and winter teams will head right into games, matches and meets! Participating in sports at any level promotes the physical and emotional well-being of children, so the last thing we want is for a young athlete to be sidelined with an injury, especially one that is preventable. Overuse injuries occur gradually over time and are typically due to abnormal amounts of stress on ligaments, muscles and bones which can lead to sprains, strains and stress fractures, respectively. Growing kids are more susceptible to these types of injuries because the growth rate of soft tissue structures and bones is generally uneven. For example, well-known overuse injuries include “little league elbow,” Osgood-Schlatter Disease and “jumper’s knee.” Each of these typically starts out as a minor ache and pain, but if they are ignored, the injury can become severe enough that full rest and rehab are required for recovery. The imbalances in muscle use and repetitive stress to growth plates can also disrupt normal growth and thus lead to long-term health problems if not cared for appropriately. The good news is that many overuse injuries can be prevented as long as the athletes, parents, coaches, trainers and pediatricians are willing to follow guidelines for safe participation:

– Make sure your child has appropriate and properly fitted sports gear and safety equipment

– Stretching, strengthening and cross-training should be incorporated into all practices with time for warm-ups and cooldowns

– Coaches should emphasize proper technique and safe play in practice and at games

– Athletes should take at least one rest day per week to allow their body (and mind!) to recover and should take longer breaks from the sport a few times per year

– Kids should be encouraged to talk to their coach or trainer and to stop activities if they are experiencing pain while in practice or competition

If despite your athlete’s best efforts to avoid injury, they start to experience pain after physical activity or during activity that doesn’t yet restrict their performance, we would be happy to see them in clinic and/or to refer them to a sports medicine specialist to prevent injury progression. It is best to catch things early on so that the recovery period required is as short as possible. For more information on how to prevent overuse injuries, please see healthychildren.orgs article on the subject. (November 2018)

Dr. Jackie Phillips