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All children’s and teens are at risk of developing an overuse injury. Nearly half of all youth sport-related injuries are due to overuse or repetitive motion.

What is an overuse injury?

There are two types of injuries, acute and overuse.

Acute injuries result from a single, traumatic event such as a sprain, shoulder dislocation, and wrist fracture.

Overuse injuries are challenging to diagnose and treat because they occur over time. They are a result of repeated wear and tear to tendons, bones, and joints. Common youth overuse injuries include tennis elbow, runner’s knee, shin splints, swimmers shoulder, youth pitching elbow, and jumper’s knee.

Who is at risk of experiencing an overuse injury?

All children’s and teens are at risk of developing an overuse injury. Nearly half of all youth sport-related injuries are due to overuse or repetitive motion.

Overuse injuries may be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Training errors
  • Improper technique
  • Excessive sport training
  • Inadequate rest
  • Muscle weakness and imbalances and joint hypermobility
  • Early specialization
  • Equipment failure may also be a cause. For example, a runner that wears a shoe that is worn out or not fitted properly can result in overuse injuries.
  • Athletes with poorer fitness levels may not be able to tolerate the demands of the training required for sports participation. All pediatric athletes should begin by establishing a good general fitness routine that includes strengthening, endurance, and flexibility.

How to recognize an overuse injury?

  • Decreased performance
  • Pain, tenderness or swelling
  • Gradual onset of pain
  • No direct hit or contact at site of pain
  • Fatigue, stiffness or aching after games or practices

How do you treat an overuse injury?

It is thought that nearly half of all overuse injuries may be prevenantable

  • Be sure your athlete receives a pre-participation physical examination (PPE) each year before he or she begins physical activity. This exam will include obtaining medical history a thorough physical exam to determine your child’s physical readiness to play.
  • Pre-season prep. Be sure your child begins some general physical activity at least two months prior to the season starting. This should include endurance, flexibility and strength training.
  • Make sure equipment is ready for play. Double check that shoes and safety equipment fits and is not damaged before your child uses it.
  • Make sure your child follows instruction and training techniques.
  • Allow time for your child to warm up and cool down before and after practices or games.
  • Increase training slowly – do not increase training time, distance or intensity by more than 10% each week. Your child’s time needs time to recover.
  • Play multiple sports and different positions – in addition to the diversity in skillset, playing multiple sports and different positions will give your child’s body a break to recover.
  • Youth athletes should have a break between sports or have a 2 to 3 month consecutive break if playing the same sport year round. Your child should also have at least 1 or 2 days of no sports related activity per week.
  • Be sure your child knows the signs and symptoms of overuse injuries and encourage them to speak up if they feel any pain.