Explaining overuse injuries and over training in youth athletes

Common Overuse injuries in Children (series): part 1

Playing sports as a child can be a fun experience, bringing life-long lessons and health. However, as mentioned in an earlier post on adequate rest and unstructured play is vital to growing youth athletes. In cases where children are serious about a certain sport, and play/practice throughout year, risk for injuries can occur. Some of these can be preventable and as a player, parent, or coach, it is important to understand overuse injuries and overtraining in children.

Overuse injuries are defined as small damage (microtrauma) that occurs over time from repetitive stresses without adequate time for healing. An example of this can be a child playing baseball throughout the year, not giving time for the arm to rest. Especially when proper mechanics are not yet formed in the throwing motion, stresses to particular areas are increased. One type of overuse injury seen in young baseball players is traction apophysitis of the medial elbow.

 

There are 4 categories which overuse injuries can be signs to look for in your child.

  1. Pain in the area after physical activity.
  2. Pain during the activity however, no decline in performance.
  3. Pain during the activity with some decline in performance.
  4. Chronic pain, even at rest.

 

The importance and implications that are unique to children is that their bodies are still developing. Bones, tendons, muscles are still growing and getting stronger. Overuse injuries can impair this process depending on the type and location of the injury. Each sport or activity can bring on different stresses to different parts of the body, making it important to understand general areas or joints that would be a focal point in your child.

 

Overtraining can lead to increased risk of overuse injuries however this term is not as clear. There are questions as to how much training is too much training for the youth athlete? “The American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness recommends limiting 1 sporting activity to a maximum of 5 days per week with at least 1 day off from any organized physical activity.

 

Much more is to be learned about appropriate amounts of training for the youth athlete. However, my goal is to educate the player, coach, and parent to understand common overuse injuries and possible signs to look out for. If you want to follow this series and get notified right when they get released, subscribe to our page and follow us on Facebook.

 

References

Brenner, J.S. Overuse Injuries, Overtraining, and Burnout in Child and Adolescent Athletes. Pedi. June 2007. 119:6. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/6/1242