Keeping kids active early sets them up to win for a number of reasons, but with any activity comes certain risks.
Last year there were well over a million pediatric visits to the ER for sports-related injuries, noted Dr. James Jewell, a pediatrician and internal medicine physician at Novant Health Mountainview Medical in King. “These injuries include concussions, heat-related illness and the rare heart and vascular problems,” Jewell said. “Much more common however are injuries of the bone, ligaments and tendons that are prone to injury due to extreme stress or prolonged overuse. These injuries include ligament tears such as ACL tears of the knee, meniscal injuries, ankle and other joint sprains and tendinitis.”
Along with paying attention to hydration and conditioning, Jewell said he especially recommends young athletes pay close attention to their bodies and for their parents to stay alert that their child is not overdoing it. “Overuse” injuries are responsible for nearly half of all sports injuries to middle and high school students. Read on to learn how to keep young people safe and healthy, whatever their sport.
What is an overuse injury?
“As the name implies, it’s an injury or sometimes just pain that happens from doing the same activity over and over again,” said Dr. Christian Turner, a pediatric sports medicine physician with Novant Health Pediatric Sports Medicine in Charlotte.
Athletes in repetitive-style activities, such as baseball, swimming, or tennis, are prone to these types of injuries. Depending on the sport, they may happen in either the upper or lower extremities. Swimmers and baseball players, for example, are likely to sustain arm or shoulder issues, while runners may face leg or knee pain.
Overuse injuries are a pesky problem. They can be slow to heal, so prevention is the best policy for keeping kids and teens strong and less prone to getting hurt. One of the best methods for staving off injury setbacks is cross-training. Strengthening other supporting muscle groups lessens the likelihood of problems arising from overuse.
Mixing up training and workouts also keeps the body from plateauing, and incorporating new challenges allows it to continue getting stronger. Foster this by encouraging your kids to engage in a variety of activities.
Turner advises that kids should have a full day off a given sport each week. And for the extreme competitors playing year round, a full month off within each year is best.
Nonetheless, injuries do sometimes happen. If your child does get hurt, rest is the best method for recovery, Turner said. Whatever it may be, he said that “the first thing to do is stop that activity.” Talk to your pediatrician if there have been any changes in your kids’ activity; they can help you come up with a prevention plan for your child moving forward. And because overuse injuries take time to heal, consult their advice on how long they should take a break.
When to seek help
Pay attention to any changes in your kids’ athletic performance. Some examples could be limping, changes in gait or favoring an arm. Also, if pain surpasses typical soreness and either lasts more than an hour following activity or carries into the next day, it’s time to pay your pediatrician or family practitioner a visit.